In the previous article from this series, we talk about the lifestyle we call living by faith, which is naturally paired with the spiritual practice of forsaking all. One simple way to explain this link between forsaking all and living by faith is–to borrow from the churchy cliche “let god & let God“–forsaking all is “letting go” and living by faith is “letting God“.
Whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.KJ 2000
You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.NLT
One of Jesus’ more unpopular teachings can be summed up in two words: forsake all. Because this concept is so unpopular, we feel that it is necessary to dedicate a whole page to talk about it and hopefully shed some new light on the significance and benefits of forsaking all.
Why is forsaking all so unpopular?
Let’s take a look at what the word “forsake” means: forsake is the action in which people “abandon something or someone“, or they “renounce or give up something valued or pleasant“.
So, when Jesus teaches us to forsake all, he’s really saying that we must abandon, renounce, give up everything. And he says that if we do not forsake all, then we cannot be his disciples.
You can probably see why people aren’t too fond of being told that they have to forsake everything they hold dear in order to be considered a follower of Jesus. This is why the forsake all teaching is so unpopular.
But there is very good reason why Jesus lists forsaking all as one of the fundamentals in discipleship. So before you reject this idea and close yourself off to the incredible opportunity Jesus is offering you right now, please read this article all the way through. No matter what faith or philosophy you currently hold, please pray that God will help you open up to the miraculous blessings that He wants to share with you through this forsake all teaching. Pray that you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear Jesus’ radical message of ultimate love, truth, and freedom. You’ll be thanking yourself later.
So, what’s the good part?
Forsaking all isn’t actually a bad thing. Anyone who has sincerely tried it will tell you that forsaking all is one of the most liberating things a person could ever do. There are many religions/spiritualities which teach about the benefits of forsaking all, more commonly referred to as “renunciation” among non-Christians. And there’s a reason why forsaking all (or, renunciation) is considered to be a powerful fundamental for spiritual progress.
The more attached we are to material things, the less we are able to grow spiritually. This is a metaphysical law that is recognized across cultures and time, so it makes sense that Jesus, who is the most enlightened individual to have lived (no matter what else you want to believe about him), would also teach that forsaking everything is essential to becoming his disciple.
Does everything really mean everything?
The short answer: yes.
The immediate context of this forsake all teaching (verse 33 from Luke 14) has to do with material possessions. Jesus is talking about our money, our home, our cars, our clothes… everything and anything we may claim possession of.
But in the same passage from Luke 14, Jesus calls for an even wider application of the forsake all principle than just material goods:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
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 14:26-33, NIV
Here, Jesus teaches about the cost of being his disciple. In other words, he’s setting a standard for what it means to follow him, and as you can see, it has nothing to do with church attendance.*
So, to break it down, Jesus is saying that we must hate our families in order to be his disciples (v. 26). He’s also saying that we must hate our own lives, even to the point of voluntarily allowing ourselves to be killed (i.e. pick up our crosses), in order to be his disciples (v. 27). We also must be willing to put aside our own plans and ideas, instead following Jesus wherever he leads us in his teaching (v. 27). And finally, Jesus tells us that we must give up everything we own in order to be his disciples (v. 33).
There you have it: in order to be a disciple of Jesus (which is what it really means to be a Christian), we must forsake all: family, self, and possessions. That’s pretty much everything, isn’t it?
Wait, that sounds terrible! What happened to the good part?
The good news is still there, but our natural instinct is to panic when we think about letting go of everything. Our families and our possessions, our identities, our very lives are all security blankets that keep us spiritually immature, dependent upon material things for a sense of safety when in reality, the material world will always let us down.
However, there is something bigger than the material world. It is God and His spiritual domain which will never disappoint us. God is consistent, good, and true. Always.
The more we fix our eyes on God, the more we start to see through the illusion that material things can support us. And the more we become disillusioned with materialism, the less scary it sounds to just simply let go, forsake, renounce. Everything that is physical will eventually break down and decay anyway, so what harm will come if we let go of it all now? After all, Jesus promises us that if we let go and let God, God will take care of our needs (Matthew 6:33).
It’s time to outgrow the security blanket of materialism and become spiritual adults, depending on God alone. He will never let us down.
So that’s it? Spiritual growth is the only good part of forsaking all?
Not quite. Indeed, the deal does get sweeter…
Even though materialism will hinder a person’s spirituality, spirituality is not the opposite of the material world. Instead, a big part of spirituality is about having the right attitude towards material things.
When we become willing to forsake all and actually let go of family, self, and possessions, something amazing happens which goes beyond personal spiritual growth. Forsaking all hijacks a metaphysical paradox in which holding on is loss and letting go is gain. Let us explain…
Holding on to material things is pointless because, in the end, we lose it all when we die anyway. But when we voluntarily let go for the sake of spiritual development, we are abundantly rewarded for our faith and maturity. Jesus promises us this:
No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospelwill fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.Mark 10:29-30
So, when we choose to forsake all, we actually end up gaining more (both spiritually and materially) than we ever would have if we had tried to hold on in the first place. Talk about an awesome life hack!
The best way to test the truth of this teaching is to try it for yourself! But we strongly advise against forsaking all by yourself. You should talk to someone who has deep experience with the process of forsaking all. Here at The Faith Worker, we have a lot of experience with forsaking all, and we’re more than happy to offer support, advice, and counsel on the best ways to go about it. If you’re even just starting to think about forsaking all, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Church attendance isn’t anti-Christ, but neither is it necessary for practicing the teachings of Jesus. In fact, going to church could even be spiritually dangerous for someone who wants to follow Jesus because of the deception that runs deep in church doctrine.