Counting the Cost

Comparing the Responses of Zacchaeus and the Rich Young Ruler

As part of our ‘Encounters with Jesus’ series, we looked at Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus up a tree. You can find the talk here, or listen to it using the embedded player below. Part of what we looked at together was the difference in response between Zacchaeus in Luke 19 and the rich young ruler in Luke 18; two stories which illustrate what it costs to follow Jesus, but also what is lost by walking away. Credit and thanks to Jon Bloom at Desiring God for a number of the points on the list.

Jesus tells us to count the cost of following him. He promises that there are times when it’s going to be really hard, times when we have to carry our own crosses, to encounter sorrow and hardship. He tells us to weigh up whether or not we really want to follow him, because if we’re in, he wants us to be all in. We’re to count the cost, but if we count only the value of earthly things we might miss out on, we’re missing the bigger picture. Yes, it’s going to be hard, but it’s also going to be wonderful. In choosing to keep hold of his possessions, the rich young ruler lost far more.

  • He lost the beautiful joy of being united to the Son, and through him having fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:3).
  • He lost the identity-shaping joy of being welcomed before the throne of grace as a dearly loved child of the King (Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 5:1).
  • He lost the empowering joy of the presence of the Holy Spirit living within him (Acts 13:52; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).
  • He lost the relational joy of being part of Christ’s body, the church, and the strength, comfort and community that that brings (Colossians 1:18; Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:7).
  • He lost the freeing joy of the forgiveness of all his sins, redemption according to the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14).
  • He lost the transformative joy of the promise of the Spirit working in him to increasingly help him bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22–23).
  • He lost the sustaining joy of knowing the provision of God’s all-sufficient grace for every need (2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19).
  • He lost the unspeakable joy of knowing every precious and very great promise of God found their yes for him in Jesus (1 Peter 1:8; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
  • He lost the triumphant joy of seeing others delivered from darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:13).
  • He lost the abundant joy of the life Jesus would have given him, life to the full (John 10:10).
  • And he lost eternal joy! He walked away from the heavenly treasure of eternal life with God and the opportunity to enjoy a renewed, restored, redeemed heaven and earth forever (John 3:16, Revelation 21 and 22).

Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). How small the whole world seems in the light of the riches of what it is to follow Christ! How vast are the riches of what it is to know Jesus and enjoy the fullness of what it means that all that you have is his and all that he has is yours. All those things that the rich young ruler lost are freely offered to you today, in Christ. Zacchaeus, a man used to counting up costs, looked on all he had, counted the cost of every penny, and decided that it came to far less than he had thought. He decided it came to far less than what was on offer in the one stood before him.

We count the cost of following Jesus based on what we treasure most.

Where is your treasure?