Question and Answer

Giving Up Our Possessions for Christ

Question:

I have been studying about Christ's call to total obedience and commitment, and ran across a verse from Luke 14:33 which hit me between the eyes. He says "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple". I have read this many times in the past but it never quite stuck out to me. Growing up in a Reformed church, I have always believed it's okay to possess material things as long as they do not "possess" me - that our time and resources ultimately belong to Christ and He must be the focus of such resources. Yet when I read this, it seems a paradox when we as believers do not necessarily "sell" everything we possess. I would appreciate your comment.

Answer:

First, I am glad you have realized the absolute claim Christ makes on your life. If he is to be Lord, then he must be Lord over all your life. This is not acknowledged by very many American Christians, who are often (sadly and wrongly) taught that materialism (love for this present age) is perfectly acceptable to, and even rewarded by, God. Instead, the faith which the Lord commends is summarized in Hebrews 11:13-16: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."

Second, we should take note of what Jesus meant by his words in Luke 14:33. In chapter 14, he is challenging his hearers with his call to discipleship, which, as you put it, is a "call to total obedience and commitment." In the immediate context, he says, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27) Thus, when he says in verse 33, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple," he is not referring only to possessions. Instead, we must be willing to give up literally everything (possessions, family, life, etc.) in order to be Jesus' disciples.

Does this mean we must divest ourselves of all relationships and possessions, take up a monastic lifestyle, and actively seek out martyrdom? While this conclusion has been compelling to many, we should remember 1 Timothy 4:1-5: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

Here, we have two replies to the extreme application which one might want to draw from Luke 14:33: (1) Teaching that this sort of lifestyle is required for all Christians is condemned rather strongly. (2) The "things" of this life (marriage, food, etc.) are not only good, but in fact are made holy (sanctified) if received in submission to the Word of God with prayer and thanksgiving. (By referring to "the Word of God" in 1 Timothy 4:5, I believe this passage takes into account that some "things" of this world are inherently sinful, such as fornication.)

What, then, ought our view and use of the things of this life be? On the one hand, we may use them freely so long as we obey 1 Timothy 4:1-5. On the other, we ought always be on guard against loving the things of this world more than our Savior. Rather, we should be like Moses who esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward." (Hebrews 11:26) Particularly in a grossly and radically materialistic culture such as we have in America, we must always be on guard against love of the things of this age. Moreover, we should always be ready to give up whatever we must (job, house, love of father or mother, etc.) to be faithful to the claims of Christ.

I suggest you study the Westminster Larger Catechism #140-42, which are on the Eighth Commandment, for a full explanation of what the Orthodox Presbyterian Church believes about the use of material possessions.

Again, I commend you for your desire to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. He died for the sins of his people and has given us the wonderful promise of eternal glory and perfect fellowship with him; how can we in turn be unwilling to lay down everything he requires of us? I pray you may continue to grow in understanding of God's grace to us through the Cross.


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