Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes

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The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes attempt to explain why full-time discipleship was not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others. Jesus was willing to take on as full-time disciples only those whom he believed were up to this extraordinary task.

Luke 14:28-32
(Huck 171; Aland 217; Crook 261)[1]

Revised: 29-Aug.-2016

מִי בָּכֶם שֶׁרוֹצֶה לִבְנוֹת מִגְדָּל לֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וִיחַשֵּׁב אֶת הַיְּצִיאָה אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ לְהַשְׁלִים שֶׁמָּא יִתֵּן תְּמַלְיוֹס וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר וְכָל הַרֹאִים אוֹתוֹ יַתְחִילוּ לְהַלְעִיג עָלָיו לוֹמַר הָאָדָם הַזֶּה הִתְחִיל לִבְנוֹת וְלֹא יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר מִי הַמֶּלֶךְ שֶׁיּוֹצֵא לְמִלְחָמָה עַל מֶלֶךְ אַחֵר וְלֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וְיִמָּלֵךְ אִם יָכוֹל בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים לִקְרַאת הַבָּא נֶגְדּוֹ בְּעֶשְׂרִים אֶלֶף וְאִם לָאו הַלֹא יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים וְיִשְׁאַל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ

“Can you imagine anyone who would begin construction of a watchtower without first working out the cost to see if he has enough money to complete the job? Otherwise, he might only get the foundations in before running out of money. Then all those who saw it would ridicule him. ‘Look,’ they would say, ‘he couldn’t finish what he started!’

“Can you imagine a king who would attack another king without first sitting down with his staff to discuss whether he is able to withstand the king who is coming with an army twice the size of his own? If the consensus was that he could not, wouldn’t he send messengers to signal his submission?”[2]


Tower Builder and KingReconstruction

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Conclusion

We believe that the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes are an attempt to explain why full-time discipleship is not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place, obligations that were incumbent upon Jesus’ full-time disciples. We believe that these historical circumstances must be recognized in order to appreciate Jesus’ teaching on this issue.

Jesus did not equate becoming a full-time disciple with salvation, nor did he regard non-disciples as hostile to his mission or exclude them from the benefits of his ministry. To the contrary, Jesus recognized that for the vast majority of people it was better that they enjoy his words and deeds as observers and beneficiaries and that they put his teachings into practice in their daily lives—like the crowds who listened to Jesus’ teachings and who held him in high regard—than to leave their homes and communities in order to become full-time disciples with absolute commitments and obligations to Jesus’ mission. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements for a time in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others.

In the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes it is not the willingness or the desire of the men to set about their tasks, but their ability to do the job that is at stake. Similarly, we believe that the situation the similes address does not pertain to the sympathy of would-be disciples to Jesus’ message, but to their ability to do their job well. Jesus was willing to take on as disciples only those whom he believed were up to the task.


Comments 9

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  7. Great article! Will it be possible to say that this reflect the general mindset of many Jews during the time of Jesus? Many were following and looking for a Rabbi who could teach and intemperate the Torah as best possible ensuring keeping the mitzvot according to God ‘s requirement in order for the kingdom of God to return? In what way was Jesus’s requirements different from those of other rabbis?

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