"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king ..." (Luke 14:31-33)

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." (Luke 14:31-33)

What does Jesus' parable of the king mean?

Jesus is using an analogy of a king and his army here to communicate that in order to truly follow him, his students must be willing to fully commit themselves.

When many read such words, they often think of material things. They figure they will need to give away their money or walk away from their house and family.

But that is not what Jesus is speaking of. Jesus is speaking of giving up our attachment to these things, and the hope that these things will make us happy.

This includes the hope that if we become famous or have many followers we will become happy.

This very issue is one of the problems presented by those who give away their material assets or walk away from their positions and go to a monastery and live like a monk or become a priest. They might have left their money and their homes and family, but many will still maintain a quest to achieve the respect of others for their so-called renunciation. Many believe they will impress people for their supposed dedication.

As a result, many priests and monks end up striving for followers and a high position among the hierarchy of the institution they have joined. They might seek positions of esteem, such as head monk, high priest, cardinal, bishop, pope or whatever position might curry them respect.

Such a quest is simply a minor shift in materialistic aspirations, away from secular society into ecclesiastical society. Their underlying self-centeredness has not changed.

What Jesus is looking for is a change of heart. He is asking those who follow him to give up their hope to achieve self-centered happiness - whether it be via wealth, fame, followers, or whatever this physical world offers. 

Materialism could never make us happy anyway - because we are not these physical bodies.

But what is left then? 

How can a person become happy if we give up everything we have previously hoped will make us happy?
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’" (Luke 10:27)
What is love for God? Besides this being Jesus' most important instruction, to love God means to want to please Him more than we want to please ourselves. It means wanting to serve God more than we want to serve ourselves. "All your heart" means everything. The Supreme Being becomes our heart and soul.

It means giving all of our aspirations and goals to the Supreme Being - and just doing what He wants us to do.

Isn't this about a change of heart?

Changing our hearts from being self-centered to being God-centered.

In such a consciousness it doesn't matter how much money we have or how much fame we have or whatever other assets we might have. In such a consciousness, those material things become tools to please God with. One can utilize money in the service of God. One can utilize a house in the service of God. One can utilize fame in the service of God.

For example, Jesus had 12 close disciples around him who helped him manage his travels and food and where he stayed. It is also evident from the scriptures that Judas kept the money and paid for things when needed - whether it was meals or otherwise. In other words, Jesus was not averse to money. He utilized it in his travels. But he wasn't interested in accumulating it. It was simply a tool used in his service to the Supreme Being.

Material things can be used in the service of God if we already have them. We don't have to give them up. We also don't have to leave our families or homes. But if we want to follow Jesus and please God, we do have to give up our attachment to them. We have to give up the notion that we need them and they will make us happy.

Jesus is speaking of commitment here. Giving up our aspirations for materialistic happiness requires a serious commitment. Why? Because the Supreme Being doesn't want those who are wavering in their relationship with Him.

Just consider: Would you want to have a loving relationship with someone who wasn't sure whether they wanted to be with you or be with someone else? Or they just wanted to 'date around'? Who would want such a relationship? Real loving relationships require commitment. This is what the Supreme Being wants, and this is why Jesus is requesting this of his followers: Because Jesus knows what will please the Supreme Being.

This was communicated directly by Jesus:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)