In the parable in Luke 14:28-32 I see advice to think first and give up risky plans. But the explanation in verse 33 says it means to give up one's earthly belongings, which is quite a different concept. The closest interpretation I could come up with that seemed natural to me was "think before you will try to 'buy' your life, and you will find you can't".

There is another extreme contradiction few verses before (hate x love from verse 26), so the parable could mean "either you try to make your life safe, long, happy etc. by your money and your effort," which is foolish, or "you must detach of all you have and hope for salvation from God". "Rich men" often mean "those who cleave to their money", but I'm still not sure I understand the parable. What does Luke 14:28-33 mean?

  • I edited the question to make it a bit clearer, but I'm not sure what you mean by "hate x love more than me". If it is relevant to your question, can you please explain what you mean.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 17:45
  • @ThaddeusB: thanks, I think it helped. The "love/hate" refers verse 26, where "hate" is not opposite of the love we owe to our neighbors, but of loving them too much, more than Jesus ("me" in the text of the Gospel). I'll edit this to clarify.
    – Pavel
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 18:38

5 Answers 5


The accepted answer to this question (as of Nov 14, 2017) states that the parable relates to avoiding humiliation.

Respectfully, I do not think this interpretation is correct nor do I think that it accords with your point about verse 33: So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (KJV).

To humiliate, according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (12th ed.) is to "injure the dignity and self-respect of" a person. If anything, the preceding verses indicate that it is precisely this injury to dignity and self-respect that one must experience in order to be a follower of Christ: If any man come to me and yea hate not his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

In my opinion the parables in Luke 14:25-35 deal with the preservation of one's zeal, not the preservation of one's dignity. In summarizing the patristic interpretation of this passage, Theophylact writes:

By this parable of the tower the Lord teaches us that once we have chosen to follow Him we should always guard this resolution we have made. We should not lay down the foundation, that is, begin to follow Christ, without being ready with sufficient zeal to finish the task.1

In his earlier commentary on this passage, Cyril of Alexandria (5th c.) calls to mind a verse from the Deuterocanon:

My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation (Sirach 2:1, KJV)

Cyril writes:

And next He uses two examples, to encourage unto an invincible fortitude those who are His friends, and to establish in an unwavering zeal those whose desire it is to attain to honours by patience and endurance. For if, says He, any one wish to build a tower, he reckons first if he have means sufficient to finish it, lest when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, men laugh at him. For those whose choice it is to lead a glorious and blameless life ought to store up beforehand in their mind a zeal sufficient thereunto ... But those who have no such zeal, how will they be able to reach the mark that is set before them?2

This interpretation of the parables harmonizes, in my opinion, with the two admonitions that follow that a true disciple must forsake all he has for His sake and that salt that has lost its flavor is worthless (v. 33-34). In other words, he must have more zeal for Christ than for any other thing he might be attached to (including his own dignity and self-respect); and without such zeal, he will achieve nothing.

1. The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Luke (tr. from the Greek), p.188
2. Commentary on Luke, Sermon CV (tr. from the Syriac)

  • This fits the context perfectly. +1 and acceptation changed.
    – Pavel
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:18

Luke 14:28-32 is about "counting the cost" in order to avoid being humiliated.

To avoid humiliation:

  1. you wouldn't set about constructing a building without considering whether or not you had sufficient reason to believe you could finish it;

  2. you wouldn't contemplate going to war against an army larger than your own without considering whether or not you had sufficient reason to believe you might win;

  3. you shouldn't contemplate commencing a journey as a disciple of Jesus without considering first whether or not you have sufficient reason to believe you can finish it.

Jesus is saying that unless you are willing to foresake everything (father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, even your own life - v. 26), then you won't finish the journey, it will end in humiliation.

Love and Hate

The last thing you let go of, is the thing you love. The things you let go of in order to maintain your grip on the thing you love, are the things you hate.


This particular teaching of Jesus is one of the most difficult for people to accept, because it goes against our strongest evolutionary instincts.

But to examine these two paragraphs in their context, we need to also include verses 25-27 and 34-35:

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

The meaning of the translation 'hate' here has been examined in other questions on this site. The words 'love' and 'hate', as translated throughout the Bible, particularly before Jesus' death, are less concerned with understanding and compassion as they are about value and preference. So when Jesus says to 'hate' something or someone, he means to 'prefer less' - effectively to downvote. And when he says to 'carry their cross and follow me', he literally means to be willing to face their own physical, possibly even painful, death.

What Jesus is asking of his disciples is to stop favouring their connection to family, to stop making choices in life based on the benefit and survival of themselves and their own kind as a priority, and to instead open their minds and hearts to the potential of a much more universal and eternal connection to life. It's a big ask.

He then gives examples to illustrate 'the same way' they should consider their commitment to this task. You wouldn't start building a tower if you hadn't considered the cost of following it through to completion. You wouldn't go into war against a larger army, a seemingly insurmountable task, if you hadn't seriously thought about what it would take to defeat them. And if it didn't seem likely, you would seek an alternative solution rather than forge ahead in a battle you know you will lose.

So he wants them to think carefully about what is being asked of them in becoming a disciple. Because it isn't going to be easy, and it isn't achievable while they still strive for the strength, benefit and survival of their biological or genetic connections to others or their own physical connection to life above everything else. That is still a good life, but it is not following Jesus. All of these physical and biological connections must mean nothing to them if they are to truly follow Jesus.

What many consider to be the purpose of life in general prevents them from achieving the task Jesus has set for his disciples. If we believe we are salt, wouldn't we feel worthless if we lost our saltiness? So, too, if we believe we are here to ensure the survival, continuation and benefit of our genetic code, then we won't make choices that would cause us to lose that, would we? Jesus asks people to think about what they are trying to achieve here in following him, and to listen carefully to what the task is, because not all of them will have the right perspective in life to be a disciple. This isn't about risking everything you value in this life - it's actually about a paradigm shift: about different values altogether.

Understanding this teaching is fundamental to realising that all life is interconnected, past present and future, in such a way that the strongest connection we are aware of towards another human being is equal to our connection to each and every element of life in the universe - ever. It is only our awareness of that connection that differs. This is the paradigm shift, and it's a tough one to grasp.


To get the context of this it is better to broaden the passage at hand, Luke 14:26-27 indicates that this context is in relation to the cost of bearing the cross:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

On that basis the diligence over building the tower is an analogy for how we are to persist with Christianity from beginning to completion and that if we drift away there will be humiliation.

When the king goes up against a overwhelming force the peace delegation is seeking merciful terms, rather than surrender. The perfection of the cross is overwhelming to people. Jesus instructs us:

"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." -- Matthew 19:21

People though do not reach perfection in this life but press on towards the goal, even the Apostle Paul:

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." -- Phillipians 3:12

We can read from this that this is both a call to persistence and to request mercy because we are not perfect, we must ask for peaceful terms with God because we are all flawed and start out incapable of rising to the challenge of the cross.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," -- Romans 3:23

With God's help and assistance we are eventually built up and made able to rise to the challenge of carrying the cross; but at first we need to seek peaceful terms and mercy with God, a process that includes repentance and justification.

This passage is a call to persistence and to seek God's mercy and forgiveness ready for the road ahead.

Regarding hate, in my personal experience, when you see the darker side of people and the world for what they are you will hate the way people treat people and you will see how much they need to be redeemed, if you don't see that darker side then you will not understand how far they needs to be redeemed and will not have the motivation to persist in the journey.

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    – user2672
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 9:42

Jesus ends the passage with "he who has ears to hear, let him hear". That tells us that this is a significant metaphor. The context is one of giving up everything. Now the traditional way to view this is the "count the cost" viewpoint which more people take. I believe these parables (the foolish tower builder and the wise king) tell a story of people either living by the OT covenant (the law) or the NT covenant (grace). The tower builder attempt to live his life by his own good works and self righteousness, foolishly thinking he can be perfect by his actions. He starts out his life well but then (as everyone does) fails miserably to live a perfect life by the law. People then see this person attempting to live holy but seeing/hearing his gross hypocrisy, begin to scoff and ridicule.

The wise king on the other hand, understands that he can never live his life by the dictates of the law and the commandments and surrenders to grace even before he starts. This person understands the Old Covenant cannot save and only the sacrifice of Christ and God's grace can make you a disciple.

So, "in like manner" he who does not give up everything (read: his self righteousness) cannot be My disciple". This is clear, only the wisdom of the new covenant can make you a disciple.

The next 2 verses are also grossly misunderstood.

Salt is good but what if the salt loses its savour. It is not good for anything, not even the manure pile but to be thrown out". Salt is wisdom as Collosians 4 tells us ("let your speech be seasoned with salt"). The OT had a wisdom, a type of glory (2 Cor 3). But just like the glory faded from the face of Moses, so the wisdom of the Old Testament has faded. That wisdom in no longer good for anything other than to be thrown out, for it cannot save anyone.

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