Do We Need To “Forsake All” (Like Jesus Said)?

Do We Need To “Forsake All” (Like Jesus Said)?

An Interesting Reader Question

I received the following email from a customer of my book. His question brings up a insight I got a while back that I’ve never written  on before.

The last few months have really been bothering me!  I can’t stop thinking about “forsake it all.” What does forsake it all really mean? I have listen to a gentleman in Australia who has been making YouTube videos, “a voice in the desert.” This guy is really convincing! Have you heard of him? He is teaching to be Jesus’ real disciple, you must forsake it all. Stop working, making money and live in an RV or homeless. I have went as far as I have sold all my retirement and I am getting ready to forsake it all. I still have doubts. Could you shine some light on this?

(Poor guy, I hope “sold all my retirement” is not as bad as it sounds.)

Although I am unfamiliar with this YouTube channel, the error in this teaching is not new. People have been taking the words of Jesus out of context and putting others in bondage with them ever since Jesus spoke.

Of course, when reading actual quotations from Jesus containing instructions, it’s going to be very convincing—until you see what the missing context was.

Here’s where Jesus said things to this effect:

Luke 14:33 — In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.

Matthew 19:21 — “Sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Matthew 19:27 — Look, Peter replied, “we have left everything to follow You. What then will there be for us?”

Jesus required would-be followers to forsake everything to follow him. Peter and the rest affirmed that the Twelve had done exactly this.

This makes sense when you consider that to be Jesus’ disciple meant following him around as he roamed. You did not show up to a classroom close to home in order to be taught by him. He was constantly on the move. This meant leaving family businesses behind, such as the family fishing business that Peter and Andrew did (and James and John).

Jesus Has No Disciples Today

But if you had not noticed, Jesus is not around anymore. You cannot “follow Jesus” or be a “follower of Jesus” in the sense that he was referring to in the quotes above, as a direct disciple or student of his.

As such, what Jesus said above does not apply to anyone today. Anyone who tells you differently is mistaken and guilty of taking verses out of context.

Oh, people try to allegorize Jesus’ words and make them apply today. They talk about how serving God requires being open to his plan for your life and giving up your own plans. No, it doesn’t. There are some 30, some 60, some 100 (Mt 13:8), but they are all saved, regardless of how much they overcame and produced. The ones who go for the highest reward, will have sacrificed more.

Great servants of God have lived that way, nearly forsaking everything. Abraham left his country, but did not leave his wife behind. He was willing to sacrifice his son when commanded, but he got him back. The apostles gave their lives for the Gospel, most of them literally. But those are great servants of God who went for a higher reward, beyond salvation.

What Does God Require?

You won’t find this high level of sacrifice and commitment in Jesus’ teaching to non-disciples on pleasing God. When he spoke to the masses in the Sermon on the Mount and other passages he did not say eternal life required sacrificing everything. He actually said his yoke was easy (Mt 11:30).

To these normal people with no special calling of an apostle or father of God’s nation, his message was simple. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 7:12), shine your light (Mt 5:16), bear fruit (John 15:8). You don’t have to leave your job, leave your spouse, leave your country or anything quite so radical to be saved. It’s a lot closer to what Paul told the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 — 10 And indeed, you are showing this love to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to excel more and more 11 and to aspire to live quietly, to attend to your own matters, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.

You can please God very well by setting a good example by loving others in faith to God as you go about a “quiet life.” Doing that alone will make you stand out in this Laodicean age of lukewarm, materialistic believers (Rev 3:16). Heck, it would make you stand out in any time, like a light in the darkness (Mt 5:16).

Optional Sacrifices Later? Sure

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that God may not call you to do something different than you had planned at times after. Everything is on the table and nothing can remain above God. God may call you to leave home, say move to Costa Rica or Germany (or both, one after the other =). But generally speaking, this is optional and if you “choose to accept this mission,” you will probably receive big blessings for making the sacrifice. God’s not forcing you to become great.

Further, I’m not talking about a Jonah situation where you heard the voice of God commanding you to go to another country to deliver a message and then you disobey the voice of God. That’s not optional in that case where it’s clear and explicit. However, the typical situation is where signs seem to point to God opening a door for you to go in new direction, not when you have heard the clear voice of God saying you must do that. You’re just not as accountable in the former situation as the latter.

Remember, the point of this post is to dispute the idea that a “front-loaded” all-in sacrifice is a requirement to be in compliance with Jesus’ teaching. That all must sell all to call yourself a believer in Jesus. That is not so and does damage to the simple message of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself for God to be saved (Mt 19:17-19).

13 thoughts on “Do We Need To “Forsake All” (Like Jesus Said)?

  1. To refer to the painting you use as an illustration… what about the answer Jesus gave the rich young ruler regarding having eternal life and entering the Kingdom of God? Where is the line drawn between following the Commandments then and now and in following Jesus physically at that time?

    • Kathryn, there is no difference between then and now as far as the love commandments Yeshua told the Rich Young Ruler to follow to enter the Kingdom/have eternal life (Mt 19:17-19). But to follow Yeshua was a special privilege where you learn how to master the commandments and gain secrets to mysteries of the Kingdom. He told him to give up all as the other disciples did (as Peter attested in Mt 19:27) for this privilege, probably knowing this was a test and a great chance to teach how riches often keep people from even seeking the Kingdom, unlike the Rich Young Ruler. The RYR was willing to keep the commandments but not become a disciple. He was saved up until the point if the riches got in the way of keeping God’s law.

  2. 28Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.” 29“Truly I tell you, said Jesus, “- no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come.…

    Not sure if the audience Yeshua spoke to was limited to those around him then, but it is clear that the Gospel of the Kingdom as explained by Tim in recent articles does apply to all of us now and then. I remember when I was 20 yrs. old and gladly gave up what little I had in life (it was far less than most of my time and social class, but that is another story…) for Yeshua’s sake and for the Gospel. I did not become much of a saint or preacher, and separated from the world of churches after barely a year or so. Nonetheless I kept the faith and did most everything as a prayer unto the Father. Today I now have exceedingly more than then after coming through some very unique experiences, almost always on a tight budget, even as now. My only real goal besides being true to my lady and mother of our three children, is to be able to fill more of my days with the study of His Word, so abundantly available from good sources online recommended by Tim as I transition out of my profession into an austere retirement some 45 yrs. later, but surrounded by my own extended family, with a good name and a beautiful happy home of my own.

    Why do I say this, so immodestly? Because I cannot refrain from witnessing that it is real not just theory, the Gospel, in that “all these things shall be added unto you”… My life is a witness of it! May the Father be glorified in our lives always and may his Commandments sustain us always!

  3. oh, and yes, “along with persecutions”, I believed this was for people out on the go, preaching, etc., but looking back I have always endured a type of persecution in my profession for sticking to a moral position, when the one expected of me by a client or others would have made me feel ashamed in the presence of Yeshua. Here again, a witness, that very often I had to risk foregoing or forego entirely the income necessary to take care of my family in my independent (God-dependent) practice, and no matter how scary it felt, our Father always provided sooner or later in such a way I prospered more than had I followed the ways of the world. Not easy always, and I feel often the way I treated by many as a result was “persecutions” for living a more righteous life… not easy worldly wise, but more profitable soul wise!

  4. One should only forsake such as stands in the way of worshiping the One True God as shown by Yeshua. If you think you should forsake all to follow another man(woman) to be closer to Him, you are mistaken! Stop, and ask Him to bless you with His presence… and seek independence (God dependent) from man(woman) so nothing stands between you and your Creator.

  5. When giving up ‘all’ for ones Rav, you need to be very sure that Yeshua has asked you for the sacrifice, and not simply be following what others tell you is what they think you should do.

    It is similar to being told that you must be ‘perfect’, as your Father in heaven is perfect…even though the term translated as ‘perfect’ is actually about completion, and is done in us through the Holy Spirit after beginning to follow Yeshua, and will not be completed until we are made immortal and righteous in the Millennial Kingdom. Being told to be perfect in my own strength at 7 years of age with the threat of hellfire behind it (gorily portrayed in a colored drawing of Dante’s Inferno the size of a chalkboard) set me into a chase after perfection that I could not reach, and into deep self hatred, and depression for decades until freed of it through Yeshua.

    I have had, also, the bat kol’s where you are impelled to do as you are told, although in my case it was two short orders on how G-d wanted my live to be lived. They were not onerous requirements, just hard to learn to do, but I did as I was told, and although I do it badly, Abba blesses me extremely, and I continue to be changed in him…by him.

  6. Who among us can argue that True Love is at times its own life-giving sacrifice?

    John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

    Galatians 5:14 “The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    John 15:12-14 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command you.…”

    Now if we can love ourselves the way Y’hovah loves us, loving others as ourselves takes on new meaning doesn’t it? It is not as easy as it sounds. If we can be ready on a moment’s notice to lay down our lives even for the sake of a complete stranger, and also be ready to sacrifice ourselves for sake of the small things short of getting snuffed out (which are even harder) — we are fulfilling the Law, when we DO those things. Take it from my disabled wife’s caregiver.

  7. I think there is a point that many are missing here
    That Jesus taught separation from the world and it’s values.
    And perhaps christians today have forgotten that worldlyness is rebellion.
    How about the verse if anyone loves this world, or anything in it, the love of the father does not abide in them. God is telling us clearly that we must be separate, holy, set apart. We must not follow the world, it’s values or fashions. God forbids it. How we work that out in our lives is between us and the Holy Spirit. But we must take it seriously, or be lukewarm. Jesus was radical, how can we follow Him if we are cowardly ? Lovers of pleasure ? Spiritually lazy ?

  8. In Luke 14:25, it says that ”great multitudes followed Christ, and Jesus turned and said to them…whosoever does not forsake all that he owns cannot be my disciple”. It’s very clear this message is not going out to a select few, but to the multitude. If we want to be a disciple of Christ, i.e. a follower of Jesus, then we need to forsake all. The author of this site say this level of commitment is not required by the masses, yet it’s what Jesus taught told the masses to do if they wanted to be his disciple.

    The author states that because Jesus isn’t around any more then we can’t follow him in the same way as the disciples, and as such what Jesus told the disciples to do we don’t need to do. Jesus says at the end of the Matthew 28:20 “Go into all the world teaching all nations…teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have command you, and lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world”.

    Jesus commanded his disciples to forsake all they own if they wanted to be his disciple. He taught that we should ”sell what you have, give alms, and provide for ourselves treasure in heaven”. Jesus expressly commands his disciples to teach ALL nations to obey the very things that he commanded them to do. It can’t get much clearer than that. And of course, Jesus says, ‘I’m with you always, even unto the end of the world’. Just because his ‘physical form’ may not be on earth, his Spirit is and it is his Spirit that we need to follow and his teachings are his Spirit (John 6:63 – John 14:26).

    The message in this article is that we don’t have to follow Christ’s teachings if we don’t want to. Despite Jesus says, ”If you love me you will obey me” (John 14:23-24). And despite Jesus saying that a wise person hears what Jesus says and DOES them (Matthew 7:24-27). The teaching on this site seems to be that you can essentially pick and choose which of Jesus’ teachings you want to follow depending on what level of sacrifice you’re willing to give to God, because all you need to do is to love God and love your neighbor (completely overlooking the fact that Jesus’ life and teachings show us HOW to love God with all of our hearts, body, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves).

    Essentially, you can choose to be the foolish person, who hears what Jesus say and doesn’t do what he says, but still claim your entry to heaven on the basis of your ‘apparent’ acceptance of Christ as your Lord (see what happens to these people here: Matthew 7:21-23), and your own opinion on what it means to love God and your neighbor.

    I would strongly recommend people read what Jesus told those who wish to follow him to do. And ask yourself, ‘Do I want to do do those things, do I want to be a follow of Christ?”. If the answer is no, that’s fine, we’re given a free will. But if we’re rejecting his teachings, then we’re are rejecting him (Luke 10:16), so STOP calling yourself a Christian which is a disciple or a follower of Jesus (Acts 11:26). It’s this lukewarmness that makes God sick, and brings more trouble and confusion to the cause of Christ that if one was hot or cold (Revelation 3: 16).

    • Jude, unfortunately you missed my point. I don’t dispute Jesus invited even the multitudes to be his disciple and mentioned the high sacrifice and cost of accepting. But in his instructions to them on eternal life he said his “yoke was easy” (Mt 11:30) and was simply about love your neighbor as yourself for God (Mt 19:17-19). By all means follow Jesus’ teachings! But don’t forget that the audience of some of his words was not the general public but disciples who left everything and followed him around the countryside.

  9. Hi
    Jesus said i have come that you might have life and life more abundantly.God has never changed.The problem is mans understanding its evil and an enemy of God .Until you have encountered God in the spirit you are stuck with your own understanding sorry but its true and you are still in religion.How did the disciples come to the conclusion
    “WELL WHO CAN BE SAVED”.The gospel being preached today will never bring a person to this conclusion Why?because its been watered down to appease itching ears.
    The kingdom of God is so opposite this world and if you are not secure truly in the love of God you are still on shifting sand.
    Righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ if your not in faith you have no righteousness its simple .if you have fear your still saying Satan is big God is small,to me its so simple ,if Jesus is saying forsake all then you forsake all or Jesus is not Lord and on that day they will say Lord Lord but He will say be away from me for i never knew you, in other words you spent too much time in your own understanding doing the things that you thought were ok and it was detrimental to our relationship.His life is life and until you have truly experienced it spirit to spirit you still have no clue this is hard to here but its true and Mathew 24 tells us the love of many will grow cold and many will depart from the faith are you one of those people Mathew is talking about.
    The criteria for being a disciple of Jesus Christ is clear thats why He make 2 statements that should shake you 1.WILL I FIND FAITH IN THE EARTH? 2 NARROW AND DIFFICULT IS THE WAY THAT LEADS TO LIFE AND ONLY A FEW FIND IT. John 6 is a typical chapter, were disciples turn away and follow him no more ,why did they turn away?They said its difficult. Don,t think its different for you and me today it is certainly not so do not be deceived.To forsake all includes yourself ,Satan is not the problem you and i are.Jesus did not die to give you a better day,He did not save you to turn every traffic light green and give you the best parking space at Asda that type of Christianity is carnal and self centred.He came to put our self centred living to death so you no longer live but Christ lives in you and me has it happened in you yet.He will only say good and faithful servant to those who have been He can not lie.If your not living for the eternal your still earthly and your security is still in the temporal arena thats going to be shaken violently that the only things to remain are the things that can not be shaken.The picture is so clear to me Jesus is awesome have you really been born again and said what must i do to be saved or have you just prayed a prayer to go to Heaven show me in the bible were this prayer is please i have never found it . Did He walk on the shaws of Gallalie and shout hey guys pray this prayer then walk away?No He said follow me, you can pray a prayer and never follow and the church is full of such people how very sad this is to me.
    I would like to finish on this simple truth.
    YOU ARE CLAY and clay has no say neither do you, its down to the potters WILL what that clay becomes.You as a Christian have no rights what so ever if you think you have its called rebellion and God hates it like any other sin.DENY SELF and follow Christ is the only way otherwise there is no following,God bless

  10. Just to add, I’m also not condoning of the teachings of ” the voice in the desert” what I’m trying to say is this, you don’t leave everything to join a group, in the process of your sanctification, God will tear anything from your life that he knows is coming between you and him, you’ll have to make hard choices. whether it be materialized things, people in your life, your relationship s, your place of work. That’s the point, you can’t hold onto anything. Let’s take Lots wife as an example of this spiritual practice. She looked back, what happened, what did Jesus say to the man who wanted farewell his family, you looked back, not fit for the kingdom. All of the above comments people made, have good points, and, trying to understand these teachings of Jesus are difficult as they are so controversial and contradictory to wordly behavior, that of coarse people will say your crazy. But God’s way is not of this world. Gods thoughts are not ours. People Jesus has to be central to everything. There is a brother out there, who resides in Oakland, his name is Vincent, and wow, this guy is what I believe, the closest thing to a true disciple of Christ. He lives a self denying life, making himself homeless from a life of atheism and college education, to full time care of the poor in his region. Preaching every month to them, living everyday full time to help the poor. He gave up everything, and he is so blessed, you can’t deny God is with such a man. People I strongly recommend you guys go to YouTube, and search for, Vincent Pannizzo homeless ministry, and watch the video titled “God knows who they are”
    Watch it and ask yourself how much are you loving others for the Gospels sakes, are you truly living for others as a servant as Christ did.

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