In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:33, NIV)
Jesus apparently did not like large crowds, at least not according to Luke. He was being followed by large crowds, Luke tells us, when he turned to them and told them that if they did not hate their families they could not follow him. If they did not hate their own lives, they could not be his disciple. If they would not take up their own cross, they could not go where Jesus was going.
If they did not give up everything that had, they could not be his disciples.
We don’t have the wiggle room here that the encounter with the rich young man gives us. There Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. We read that and quickly explain that this was advice for this one particular person. He was overly attached to his wealth — unlike us. He needed the challenge because Jesus could see that his attachment was harming his soul. We applaud Jesus for his brilliant insight about that one particular guy. A guy who lived and died long ago. A guy who has nothing to do with us.
We can’t do that here.
Jesus is speaking to a large crowd. This is not a narrowly tailored piece of spiritual advice. It is a general rule. He applied to everyone who wanted to follow him.
Give up everything you have.
John Wesley preached that the commands of Christ, the law of God, had three purposes. The first of these was to convict us of our own unworthiness. The law shatters all our trust in our own goodness and the things of this world that we put our trust in.
Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
If this declaration leaves us stammering with questions and wriggling uncomfortably and looking for a way out, that is our convicted heart straining under the sharp sword of God’s Word.
Rather than wriggle on the point of it, we are invited to drop to our knees. We are invited to repent, to cast away all the self-justification and defenses we raise. We are invited to say “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Jesus turned on the large crowd following him that day and told them to count the cost. Let those of us who have ears, hear.