Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | September 12, 2007

Must Christians give up their families, possessions, and money to follow Christ?

Christ Carrying the Cross 1580

Originally published September 12, 2007, updated July 27, 2019.

This may seem like an absurd question to many, but I believe it’s well worth answering.  In discussions with two different people from unhealthy religious backgrounds, I’ve learned this is a commonly-held misinterpretation of Scripture, and a dangerous one.

It’s dangerous because it leads people to believe that, unless, they give up everything they own, forsake their families (or forsake starting one), and live as itinerant Gospel preachers, there’s no point in following Christ. (This is why both men mentioned earlier no longer identify as Christians).

What are the verses commonly misused to support this belief?

Matthew 16:24-25 WEB Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.

Self-denial is about putting God first in our lives.  Balancing one’s spiritual life in Christ with all our other obligations can be a struggle. However, when God is first and foremost in our lives, we will experience God’s love and blessings in a way that we can’t when all other things come first.

Matthew 10:37 WEB He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me.

It’s true that we are to love God above all other things. That does not mean that God condemns families. After all, if Christians were expected to sever all family ties, the New  Testament wouldn’t have so many instructions on how family members are to treat each other. However, we must not allow family members or others to interfere in our Christian life in a way that turns us away from God.  As an example, one backslidden Christian that I know of claims to love Jesus above all things, but, afraid of angering some anti-Christian people he’s friendly with, refuses to live out or even make reference to his faith. He is more afraid of losing “friends” than he is being true to himself.

Matthew 19:21-26 WEB Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man…

The rich young man was quite content to become a follower of Christ until he learned that he would have to give things up.  This is not so much a directive on what all of us are called to do as it shows that “things” in this man’s life were more important than following the Redeemer! The rich young man didn’t commit wrongdoing by HAVING riches, he did wrong by being RULED BY them (and really, you don’t have to be of any particular religious persuasion to see how much brokenness comes from people allowing their wealth to rule them).

Followers of Christ can have families, money, and possessions. However, Christ must be first in their lives above everything. When we lose sight of this, we stand to lose out on blessings that await us.

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Responses

  1. Well, agree that to be saved you do not have to give up all you have to follow Christ. However, it would be a great serves to our Creator. Therefore, the reason I have struggled with my richness, when a greator relationship with our Lord may be gained by doing so.

  2. I agree that Jesus does not want us to hate our families. However I also believe that this verse is saying more than what this author has written. I believe that Jesus makes this statement because when we are born again as Christians we are born into a new family. Yes we must love our mother, father, brother, sister, and children but this love should be no different from the love we have for our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and children through Christ. This is also evident in Matthew 12: 46-50 when Jesus identifies His true family as other believers.

    Now the question of wealth. If we truly loved our brothers and sisters in Christ as much as these verses tell us we should then we would give up our wealth to help our dying brothers and sisters all around the world. If a Christian is not influenced by the power of wealth then they will have no problem doing this, however if a Christian struggles to do this then he or she is no different than the rich man from Matthew 19. God ensures us there is enough for all, but greed has blinded wealthy Christians without us even knowing it. This does not mean go out and sell all you have to be saved. Because without love that does not matter. Jesus wants us to know the poor, not just give to them. He wants us to show love to them and that is something money can be a means to but not the means itself. The means is you.

    To learn more about this I suggest reading Shane Claiborne’s Book “The Irresistible Revolution.” Another world is possible.

  3. Please note: This is a blog written by a Christian and for Christians. Non-Christians are welcome to post, but posts attacking Christianity or Christians (as well as hateful attacks against other groups) are NOT permitted.

    Should anybody see a post in this vein before I have a chance to do anything about it, please don’t respond, as this usually inflames things further. Thanks!

  4. Reblogged this on CelticAnglican's Ramblings.


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