14:34-35 Verse 34 contains a rhetorical question because tasteless salt cannot be seasoned. That is, once it is polluted with other things, it becomes useless.
The relationship to the preceding verses cannot be missed: salt (the follower/disciple) becomes tasteless (polluted) with possessions.
The point Jesus is making is this: material possessions, money, property, security, and concern for such things hinders a person from becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ. What we discover, then, is that there is a difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and being a follower of Jesus Christ. Many are the followers (the “crowd”), but few are the disciples. The true disciple sacrifices all for the sake of the kingdom. The follower sacrifices what is convenient. The disciple forsakes family and friends; the follower appeases family and friends. The disciple’s offering is his life; the follower’s offering is his tithe and his time. Few are called to be disciples; many are satisfied being followers. Today’s follower is typically a good evangelical who believes all the right things, tithes, prays, attends a Bible study, serves faithfully in a church, and buys presents for the poor at Christmas. But this is not Luke’s definition of a disciple. A true disciple gives up everything for the kingdom of God, and lives with the knowledge that he or she may lose their life as a result. They live with their cross strapped to their back.
The call to discipleship may include the decision of whether or not to settle down and raise a family. The early church recognized this, and therefore many early Christians abstained from marriage for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(One must be careful here. There is no judgment as to one state or the other. The evangelist Philip who led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord, was married, settled down in Caesarea, and “had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses” [Acts 21:8-9].)
Chapter 14, however, is perhaps the most difficult chapter in Luke for the Western Christian to reconcile, including this writer. Jesus’ teaching here is absolutely contrary to taking advantage of a capitalist system and fulfilling the American dream. There are a few evangelicals, missionaries, priests and nuns who get it and sacrificially accept Jesus’ words. They have given up all their possessions and are, indeed, true disciples. Most Christians, however, are quite satisfied being followers. Although most of us would like to think of ourselves as disciples, in truth, we are mere followers. We would love to see ourselves labeled as disciples, but in reality we are unwilling to make the sacrifices of one “who gives up all his own possessions.” We find countless ways to rationalize our way around Jesus’ teachings regarding possessions and the pursuit of happiness, and deceive ourselves into believing we can have it both ways. We sacrifice some things, believing we have sacrificed much, when in truth we have sacrificed little and gained less.
This is perhaps why the apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 7:7, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am…”; that is, unmarried and free from the tether of family responsibilities. Later, he explains: “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided” (7:32-34). (As noted above, Paul does not chastise those who are married as being undedicated to the Lord. However, he recommends that if they are single or should become single, they should remain in that state [7:9-17].) Unless the husband and wife are in complete agreement regarding possessions, Jesus’ teaching is difficult to follow, and virtually impossible once children arrive on the scene, for a godly wife will put her children first in her priorities. Once there is a family, possessions are necessary to survive and provide safety, health and security, and Paul understands this. Thus he writes, “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called” (7:24).
In terms of contemporary application for the American evangelical Christian, here are some guidelines that can be gleaned from Luke 14, especially verse 33.
First, in regard to chapter 14, the reader who earnestly heeds Jesus’ teachings concerning possessions and the mandate to reach out to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, should remain in his or her present state, but one that can be maintained according to “his own gift from God.” (See 1 Cor. 7:7, 9 for the contingencies.)
Second, he who takes Luke 14 to heart must find contentment only with that which is needful. (Paul has instructions on this in First Timothy 6:6-10.)
Third, it is virtually impossible to fulfill the mandate to reach out to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind without sacrifice. Such sacrifices may involve finances, time, energy, quest for the American dream, and the pursuit of happiness. The American dream can be sought for a lifetime and lost in an instant. The pursuit of happiness is a pursuit that has no end. But that which is “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” can never be lost and has no end.
Fourth, if one is not able to give “all his own possessions,” then he or she should give as much as they possibly can. They should give sacrificially. That often involves putting aside wants daily and pursuing only those things that are needs.
Lastly, one must be truthful with oneself and accept the fact that he or she is either a follower or a disciple. The follower should not deceive himself into believing he is a disciple when in fact he is a follower. The follower cannot become a true disciple unless he or she is willing to give up “all his own possessions.” And the disciple must not pride himself on the fact that he has given all for the kingdom of God. He or she should, in fact, give glory to God and give thanks for grace, saying with the apostle Paul, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, though which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).