The Most Radical Christian Teaching

The Most Radical Christian Teaching

Forsaking all is a spiritual principle that is essential to the genuine Christian faith as well as many other faiths. (Read more about it here!) In this Bible study, we will look at the consistency of the forsake all teaching throughout the entire New Testament, beginning with Jesus’ instructions in the gospel accounts, shown in practice by his first disciples and the early Christians.

Jesus Teaches about Forsaking All

Luke 12:33

Jesus said to his disciples, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (NIV).

Luke 18:22 (see also Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21)

Jesus told the rich, young ruler, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (NIV).

Luke 14:33

Jesus told the multitudes, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (NLT).

Luke 18:29-30 (see also Matthew 19:29 & Mark 10:29)

Jesus said to all who were listening, “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

The First Disciples and Early Christians Forsake All

Luke 18:28 (see also Mark 10:28)

Peter said to Jesus, “we have left everything we had to follow you” (Berean Study Bible).

Luke 5:11

“And as soon as they [Simon Peter, James, and John] landed, they left everything and followed Jesus” (NLT).

Matthew 4:18-20 (see also Mark 1:16-18)

Simon Peter and Andrew “left their nets at once and followed him” (NLT).

Matthew 4:21-22 (see also Mark 1:19-20)

James and John “immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind” (NLT).

Luke 5:27-28

“Levi got up, left everything, and followed him” (NLT).

Acts 4:36-37

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (NIV).

Acts 4:32-35

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had… There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need” (NLT).

Acts 2:44-45

“All the believers were together and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need” (NLT).

Acts 5:1-10

“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet… As a result, both Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for holding back some of their wealth from the Church, lying to both humans and God” (NIV).

Christian Parables, Riddles, and More Teachings about Forsaking All

Matthew 13:44

Jesus told a parable to his disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field” (NLT).

Matthew 13:45-46

Jesus told a parable to his disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (NIV).

Matthew 6:19-20

Jesus told the multitudes, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal” (NLT).

Luke 11:41

Jesus told the pharisees, “Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over” (NLT).

Luke 16:9

Jesus explained a parable to his disciples, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (NLT).

Luke 21:1-4

Jesus commended a woman, saying, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (NLT).

1 Timothy 6:17-19

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (NIV).

Philippians 3:7-9

“The things that I once thought were valuable, I now consider them worthless because of Christ. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him” (NLT paraphrase).

Secret Spirituality

Secret Spirituality

Jesus’ Way calls us to a life of secret spirituality. This humble discipline takes shallow glory away from us in the short-term to create a spiritual power-force of Love in the world that God Himself will glorify.

Secret spirituality is what we like to call a particular triad of Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 6 about charity, prayer, and fasting.

Charity

Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4, NLT)

Prayer

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues [churches] where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:5-8, NLT)

Fasting

“When you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18, NLT)

These three teachings about charity, prayer, and fasting are all connected by one simple principle: if you do these things in front of others, then the only reward you will receive is their shallow admiration; but if you do these things secretly, then God Himself will reward you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that a reward from God is way better than being admired by other people! Still, there is that desire in me–as in all of us–to let everyone know that I am a nice person who gives to the poor, that I am a spiritual person who prays and fasts. That desire is very powerful, and while it can motivate people to do good, it’s apparently not the kind of motivation that what God wants us to have.

Jesus seems to be saying here that it is better to do the right thing not because other people will see us and think well of us. We should do the right thing simply for the sake that it is right, and trust that God will see our good deeds and reward us. (I’m also thinking of a cross-reference to the Golden Rule!)

Jesus asks us to let go of this temptation to only look spiritual, to merely seem pious. He wants us to forsake this image of being godly people because what we do when no one is looking is what really counts in God’s eyes!

This takes us to a whole new level of spirituality that goes beyond outward appearances. And that requires a lot of humility! Let’s pray together (in our private places of prayer!) that we can grow to this point in our spiritual practice where a reward from God (and not the shallow admiration of others!) is all we need to keep us inspired about such important disciplines as charity, prayer, and fasting.