The sacrificial requirement of being a disciple

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

  • Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.”
  • Luke 14:33 – “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

In my view, modern discipleship, at least from my American perspective, looks very different from what Yeshua taught his followers. Believers attempt to mix in discipleship to Yeshua amidst the trappings of our Western culture. In other parts of the world where biblical principles are being pursued in earnest, American Christians are looked upon as trying to have their cake, and eat it, too. Believers in America, myself included, struggle with the balance of spirituality and wealth. Generally speaking, we love to seek after the principles of the Bible, and yet we still desire to have the latest technology and pursue the highest levels of status among our peers. To the majority of the world outside of this bubble of access to resources, this appears to be duplicitous and insincere.

This is not without good reason, as Yeshua didn’t teach about any type of balance between spirituality and wealth. In fact, he taught very clearly that it is impossible to have it both ways:

  • Mark 10:23 – Yeshua looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! “
  • Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Yeshua taught that wealth, while not inherently evil, has the intoxicating effect of drawing one away from God and consuming their passions. American believers tend to excuse themselves from this analogy by comparing themselves to one another and saying about themselves: “I’m not rich; look at how much this other person has. That’s who this verse applies to.” What we fail to realize is that even some of what we might consider to be meager income and living standards are still miles above most of the rest of the world. We have so much that we take for granted that we can’t even distinguish for ourselves how well-off we are.

Yet, into this rich culture of bounty and excess, the words of Yeshua ring sharp and clear: “every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This seems so foreign, so alien to the type of spirituality we have become intoxicated with that we tend to skip over passages like this, carelessly assigning its meaning to someone other than ourselves.

However, we do ourselves a disservice when we overlook the spiritual instruction of Yeshua that was intended specifically for us, for anyone who claims to believe in the God of the Bible and yet is focused more on themselves than him. Our attachment to earthly possessions and status should be so thin that, should that silver cord break, we would be no less inclined to honor God. In fact, our faith should become all the stronger with a deeper reliance on him.

As I mentioned, God does not view wealth as inherently evil. For example, even Solomon understood that all worldly blessing comes from God.

  • Ecclesiastes 3:13 – “It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.”
  • Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 – “Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”

If we recognize our place of privilege for what it is, that in itself can take us to a place where we are less attached to those things that can distract us from serving God faithfully. When we can truly say in our hearts that if everything we have was exchanged for only the bare necessities of living and we could still maintain, or increase, our faith in God, then we are moving our faith in the right direction. When we go even further and begin to purposefully and intentionally look for ways to provide for others out of our resources at the expense of our own comfort, then we are beginning to embrace the intent of Yeshua’s teaching.

Being vigilant and watchful with the responsibility for all that we possess is absolutely necessary to true discipleship. When we are willing to sacrificially meet the needs of others at our own expense is one practical definition of biblical love, and the root of what Yeshua desires from the hearts of all of his disciples, regardless of status.

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