The other day I went to the superstore to buy a dozen 4” by 6” American flags. The store had a package of four flags for $2.18. But, in another part of the store, they had a box of 24 of the same flags. Since there was no price on them, I took them to checkout, and asked the attendant to scan the box. She said the box of 24 flags is $9.96 on sale for $8.88. We stared at each other for a moment as we mentally calculated which was the best deal. After purchasing the box of 24 flags, I opened it to discover that there were only 23 inside. Bummer. Had not calculated that possibility.
Since starting school, we have all taken math courses. On the ACT test, a student must calculate the answers to questions involving algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Every day, we must do many calculations just to accomplish common tasks. In the car, we must calculate stopping distances and how much gasoline we will need to complete a trip. When shopping for groceries, we must calculate how much food to buy to meet the needs of our family. Even when we order pizza, we have to assess how much will be needed to feed the guests.
All of this brings us to an interesting teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 14. As was His custom, Jesus was imparting deep Kingdom principles through the use of parables (a brief fabricated story that illustrates ethical values or spiritual truths). It is surmised by some that Jesus based many of His parables on known community events. This tactic would cause an immediate connection in the minds of His listeners.
As an example, there may have been a recent wedding. So, in Luke 14:7, Jesus used the wedding meal as a teaching on humility. He said that when you enter the dining room, choose a seat of lesser honor rather than choosing a seat that may belong to one of higher social status. By being humble, the host will not have to embarrass you by asking you to move.
When we come to verse 28, Jesus told a parable about a man who was going to build a tower. Some have thought that Jesus may have been referencing Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate had recently started an elaborate aqueduct system (with towers) and ran out of money. In order to cover expenses, the corrupt governor was caught stealing money from the Temple funds. This caused rioting among the people of Jerusalem, and Pilate was ridiculed for not properly calculating the cost of his building project. The foolish governor was then doubly embarrassed.
So, quite possibly Jesus used this contemporary event as a basis for a powerful teaching. Jesus said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” Obviously, Pilate had done a poor job of planning. It led him to theft of sacred property and major humiliation.
Learning to plan for anything is a challenge. Experts say that there are five major steps in planning: 1. Calculate where you are 2. Calculate where you want to be 3. Calculate the steps needed to get there 4. Determine who is accountable within the steps 5. Constantly review and revise as necessary.
But in Isaiah 55:8 (NIV) the Lord says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” That means that we must also consult the Lord in order find His will, not our own. What use is it to achieve your goals if God does not approve (Mark 8:36)?
Remember Isaiah 28:29 (NIV), “All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” Do you want a wonderful plan that is full of wisdom? Include the Lord in your calculations.