Connections 09.04.2022: Sound Bites and “Supposes”

Luke 14:25-35

I suspect most of us, at times, have encountered the Bible with a “sound bite” approach, our attention grabbed by a select handful of Jesus’ sayings. Maybe Jesus’ first listeners were the same way; maybe when he said something that seemed really wild, really dramatic, they looked at each other and made the “mind blown” gesture. Maybe when they went home that night, they repeated the startling sound bites they remembered, things like “hate your father and mother, even your own life” (v. 26), and “if you don’t carry your cross you can’t be my disciple” (v. 27).

Mind. Blown.

The trouble with sound bites is that if we stop listening after mind-blowing sayings like “hate your wife and children” (v. 26), we may miss the more subtle teachings Jesus is about to offer.

Just after telling the crowd that if they want to be disciples, they have to drop everything they care about and pick up a cross, Jesus offers two “supposes.” First, he says, suppose you’re a builder. If you want to build something big, you wouldn’t start it in the first place if you didn’t have the knowledge and the materials to finish the job. That would be ridiculous and wasteful; you’d be a laughingstock. And then, he says, suppose you’re a king about to go to war. You wouldn’t send your troops out to battle if you knew they were too small in number and sure to lose. That would be reckless and shameful; you’d be a monster.

What do these “supposes” have to do with “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (v. 33)? In his first sound-bite-y sayings, Jesus seems to suggest a wild, dramatic view of discipleship. But in these subtle “supposes,” he seems to say that if we are going to be disciples, we must not become wasteful laughingstocks or shameful monsters in the process. Discipleship demands everything, and Jesus’ disciples must be clear-eyed as they consider the commitment they are making. They cannot afford just to respond to the emotion of the moment of their call—discipleship is for a lifetime, not just a moment. They cannot just latch on to the high drama of setting off with Jesus—the road of discipleship will be long and rugged and lead to dangerous places.

Jesus’ disciples must understand what they are signing up for. They must make sure they are ready for the whole way ahead. They must be honest about the resources they have and what they will have to leave behind. They must be prepared to see the thing through to the end.


  • Sometimes we all experience “start-itis”; it can be a lot more interesting to start a new project than to keep up motivation to finish what we have already begun. Have you ever felt “start-itis” in your faith life?
  • When have you been unable or unwilling to fulfill a faith commitment you made? How do you stay focused on the way of discipleship when following Jesus feels like hard work, or even when it feels boring and uninspiring?
  • Jesus’ “supposes” are not as mind-blowing and dramatic as his call to “hate father and mother” and “take up your cross.” How do you feel about Jesus’ challenge to make a considered choice about whether to commit to discipleship? Why is it important to take stock of whether we have what it takes to follow Jesus?
  • Do you think we ever feel completely equipped and ready to commit to Jesus in the way he requires? How are we to follow him even when we are unsure if we have what it takes?
  • The thoughtful decision to follow Christ is a choice we make moment by moment. How can we practice this? How can we encourage each other along the way?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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