Imagine yourself back in the time of the gospels. You walk beside the Sea of Galilee—all is wide-open green, brown, and blue—and you listen to stories that promote love and forgiveness above all else. And then, the man who calls himself the Son of Man, the one who speaks to you only in parables, says this:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:26.

The murmurs would surely wake those who were dozing in the back, staring dreamily across the sea. Everyone would be asking, what did he just say?

My term for this teaching technique is “shock therapy.” Sometimes I’ll learn things incorrectly: bad postulates, faulty assumptions, thinking with my ego instead of my heart, or my heart instead of my brain. Whether correct or not, I’ll hold onto my beliefs because they are mine. And I won’t compromise even if it means the heavens fall. This is the point when shock therapy becomes necessary.

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”—Matthew 13:15.

Jesus was an ace at performing shock therapy, a real showman.

‘And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, / And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”—Matthew 21:12-13.

He walked on water, turned water into wine, resurrected Lazarus (and himself); he smashed up the exchange tables in the temple, threatened to destroy the temple, and on, and on.

When we are shocked, we’re scared, vulnerable…like children.

“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”—Luke 18:17.

Before the crowd by the sea could murmur for too long, Jesus launched into the first of two back-to-back parables.

Parable of the Tower:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? / Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, / Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”—Luke 14:28-30.

One minute the crowd is wondering why they should hate their mother and father, and how that’s against the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), which Jesus mentioned as essential to the Rich Young Ruler: “Honor thy father and thy mother….”—Matthew 19:19.

The next minute, they’re in a hypothetical scenario, wondering what it means to be able to afford to accomplish their goals. Do I have enough money to build the tower, hire the contractors and engineers? If I do, fine; if I don’t, then where (or from whom) can I get the cash?

Before going too far with any interpretation, I want to skip ahead, so that we know the point of these parables. Jesus didn’t often spell out his parables to his followers. So this is a key note moment.

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:33.

If you’ll remember, that was the high price the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t afford: surrendering everything. This is probably the most important lesson Jesus taught, symbolized by his death on the cross. It is the first commandment.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”—Exodus 20:3.

While that could be interpreted literally, no graven images, we can also think of it as putting nothing before God. On the list of all the important things in our lives, God is (or should be) number one. That means our parents would come after God; even our own lives are not as important.

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”—Matthew 6:24.

Mammon is the way of the world. It is material greed, something that Jesus warned against.

“And he said unto [the Pharisees], Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”—Luke 16:15.

My greed and lust for things in this world are abominations because they are just for me, not God; Mammon is the love of my will, and not God’s. That’s how you can tell whether or not a choice follows God’s will. If it benefits only you, then it is not God’s will, but yours.

I think of my will as the currency to build my tower. I want to look out over the world, and understand, and appreciate, and grow wiser from the effort, so that I can teach the path to others who are lost. But do I have enough in the bank to afford my dream? Since my dream is my whole life, I would certainly surrender everything I have now, in exchange for what I want later…eventually, once the tower is finished.

“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”—John 8:29.

I don’t have to build my tower on my own. I’d probably go bankrupt, get all stressed out. I should have a partner. And if that partner knows how to build the whole thing, and wants to design it in the most perfect way possible, why not surrender my pride and ego, and accept this as a wonderful gift?

Parable of the King:
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? / Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”—Luke 14:31-32.

While the first parable asked if we had enough funds to afford the tower, this one tells us that we do not. It’s a lost cause; we can’t overcome the sins of the world, not without sinning ourselves.

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. / These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:32-33.

We don’t have enough men, so to speak. We cannot accomplish the Golden Rule on our own. When I have tried, the result was twisted into this: Do unto others as they have done unto you. I have to look out for myself first, right?

No, actually, I fell into that trap for years. By looking after myself, I never had enough time or energy for anyone else.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. / Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”—Matthew 6:33-34.

God looks after us. This frees us to look after each other. And so I have come to the most shocking idea of all: How do I let my will become God’s?

“Jesus said unto [the Rich Young Ruler], If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”—Matthew 19:21.

Could a person really do this? I think of Pope Francis, and I know that we can. Why don’t we live more by God’s will? I know that we all have our good moments, but we have bad ones too.

When I consider surrendering my life to God’s will, I remember the definition for God that I’ve used in all these essays.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. / He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”—I John 4:7-8.

In trying to understand what love was, I realized it was God. And God is inside each and every one of us.

“…The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: / Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:20-21.

Love connects us: By loving one another, we love God, who loves us in return. Whatever we do to one another, we are doing that to God.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: / But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matthew 6:14-15.

“…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Matthew 25:40.

Therefore, I’d be surrendering myself to the love that connects all things. I can do it through mindfulness meditation: avoiding choices that are done for me alone, or for destructive purposes, and instead focus on what will improve the lives of others. I don’t mean to imply that I’ll refuse to eat or sleep. Quite the contrary: I’ll stop smoking. Cold Turkey.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”—Psalm 23:4.

It won’t be just my willpower against those cigarettes, but God’s. What would be impossible for me, will be easy for God.

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. / When his disciples heard it, they were amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? / But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”—Matthew 19:24-26.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

My New Year’s resolution is to surrender myself to God’s will. All of my choices will be based on the Golden Rule. Even if the heavens fall, and I doubt they will—It’ll be party time!—I promise to stick to this, and see where it takes me. What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen?

I choose the leap of faith. I invite everyone who reads this to consider the difference between your will, and God’s. Note the choices you make and why (or for whom). Ask yourself if you can accomplish your goals on your own. Count your men. And if you can’t overcome the world, there is a way you can. But you’ll have to surrender the life you thought you wanted, for the life that is waiting.

Back in the time of the gospels, this was what it took to become Jesus’ disciple. (Don’t confuse the term disciple with apostles, of which there were only twelve.) It’s the same choice today. We are still walking thoughtfully by the Sea of Galilee, pondering whether or not it would be better to surrender all that we have for all that we want.

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