When I tell my grandchildren about America at the turn of the century, I will tell them about houses and wars.

I will tell them about houses in places like Wheaton, Illinois, a one-time center of mild, middle-class, Midwestern evangelical Christianity, where grand teardown mansions loom where bungalows once stood. I will tell them about the heady days of option ARMS, cash-out refinancing, and homebuilders whose stock prices made the front page.

I will tell them about our wars, fought with blustering confidence and dubious competence, ambitious and precarious, like a teardown on a tiny lot.

Then I will tell them two of Jesus' most misinterpreted parables.

In Luke 14, Jesus tells the stories of a tower builder and an embattled king. In many English Bibles, these twin parables are labeled "The Cost of Discipleship." But Jesus' first hearers would have known that label was exactly backwards. For these stories are not about disciples, but fools.

A man sets out to build a tower, but is unable to complete it—and in an instant, the crowd, immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures, would think of an infamous tower-building project that was never completed. A king sets out to win an unwinnable war—and these residents of occupied territories would think of Israel and Judah's humiliating defeats at the hand of imperial armies.

Make no mistake. The tower builder and the king are not models of discipleship. When does Jesus ever speak of discipleship as if it were a construction project, carefully calculated and accounted for, or a war, in which we marshal our own forces and find them adequate for the battle? Biblical faith is the abandonment of our tower building, the surrender of our ambitions to foolishly fight our way to security. These ...

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Always in Parables
Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is an editor at large for Christianity Today. Before working for CT, Crouch was chief of re:generation quarterly, a magazine which won the Utne Reader's Alternative Press Award for spiritual coverage in 1999. He was formerly a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. Crouch and his wife, Catherine, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, have two children. His column, "Always in Parables," ran from 2001 to 2006.
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