Jesus told this example in the context of becoming His disciple, no, not as one of His 12, but as a lifelong, committed follower. He wants us to count the cost ahead of time so that we know what we are getting into, so that there are no tricks being played.
Imagine if you met someone you liked and the very next day you eloped (yes, I know this happens). Wisdom would say that this is not the foundation for a long relationship. You don’t know much about this survivor that you are committing your life to; you don’t know if you will be compatible in your goals, beliefs, finances, personalities, or family dynamics. This is why most people date in order to know if they will be compatible for marriage. If you have been married for many years you know that your relationship with your spouse deepens if you stay committed; you learn more about each other over the years than what you knew at the altar.
It’s a similar scenario when following Jesus. Christians need to know why they are following Jesus. A new convert may not know much about the Bible or God and that is ok; they are drawn by the love of Christ. But to be a disciple, we commit to following Jesus and obeying His word. Christians who still struggle with sin (besetting sin or unrepentant sin) have yet to count the cost in following Christ fully. The cost is our lives, our flesh, our sinful desires; we must give all of it up to allow the Holy Spirit to replace it with His will, His Spirit, and His desires.
With every decision we make there is an opportunity cost associated with it. The opportunity cost is what you are giving up making that decision. For example, if I cheat on my diet, I might add a couple pounds on for the next time I weigh in. Discernment in our lives requires us to know what we are giving up pursuing what we are saying yes to. Longer hours at work mean that we may not see our family as much. Neglecting the Bible consistently means that we are not as equipped to combat the attacks of the enemy.
Reflect: Have you fully counted the cost in following Jesus with everything in you? What do you need to “count the cost” in a decision that you are making or need to make?