Have you ever considered what it was like to be Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22)? Actually, you are told to do what Abraham was told. No, you are not told to sacrifice your child. But you are told (like Abraham) to renounce all that you have and thus demonstrate that God is your God and nothing else is.
What it Means to Renounce
The word “renounce” in Luke 14:33, means “to say goodbye to, say farewell, to forsake, to willingly give up or set aside what one possesses”. If we are honest with ourselves we must readily admit that we would rather step on a nail than say goodbye to everything we have. The reason we are reluctant is usually for one of two reasons: 1) we do not understand what it means to, as Christians, renounce all we have and 2) the idea of giving up all we have is not an option.
Let us consider the first point: “we do not understand what it means to, as Christians, renounce all we have.” This reason is not so much fueled by selfishness but of unawareness. We are confused and do not understand what Jesus is telling us. When we hear the call to renounce all we have, we think that Jesus is calling us to hand over all of our stuff to other people.
We may get frustrated at Jesus because He seems like a cosmic-killjoy who does not like stuff and does not want us to like stuff. We also see the foolishness of giving away all that we have only to have to beg and borrow from others in order to get things we need in order to survive. We see it as foolishness and thus we do not heed Jesus’ call.
The way we break out of this confusion is to understand that, when Jesus tells us to renounce all we have, He is telling us to renounce everything to God. We are called to take everything we have and acknowledge that it belongs to God and He has given it to us to manage. We must also remember that it is glorious to renounce everything to God and entrust it with Him because He is the wisest, most glorious, most loving Being in the entire universe who loves us with an everlasting love. Jesus is not calling His disciples to give up everything, be poor and dependant on others; but to renounce ownership of everything you have, be poor in spirit and dependant on God. Jesus is not saying that you take everything (including the kitchen sink) to the pawn shop and walk destitute in the streets, He is telling you to acknowledge that everything (including the kitchen sink) is a gift from God and to be used for His glory and His mission. To renounce all you have means to take everything and hold it in an open hand before God and say, “Thank you for it, it is yours, do with it what you will.” That is faith. That is what it means to renounce all you have in order to be a disciple.
As to the second point: “the idea of giving up all we have is not an option.” This reason is mostly selfishness: we hear Jesus’ call and we rebel because we do not want to get rid of our stuff. In this case, it is not so much that we do not understand Jesus command; it is that we love our stuff too much to even consider renouncing it. We like our stuff, it is our stuff, we earned our stuff, and we are not getting rid of our stuff. It is like the phrase: “Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”
The way we break out of this selfishness is to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). If you are a Christian, then Jesus is your Savior and Lord. Being your Lord, He is your boss. If Jesus is your boss you obey His commands. As a Christian, you recognize that you do not own anything, but God owns it. The reason you have it is because God has graciously given it to you to manage and you are held accountable for how you manage what God has given you (see Matthew 25:14-30).
If you are not a Christian, then you need Jesus. Jesus can break your bondage to your stuff and give you everlasting life. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Confess your sin to Jesus and place your faith in Him. He is a merciful and gracious Savior who will give you meaning, purpose, and identity in this life. No one can stop being selfish on their own; only Jesus can do this.
Why you Should Renounce
You may be thinking: “Why would I want to do this?” Jesus tells us to consider the tower builder, the king, and salt. How foolish is the tower builder who can’t finish his tower because He did not “count the cost” (29). How foolish would it be for a king with ten thousand to “meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (31) Also, how worthless is salt that is not salty. Jesus said, “it is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away” (35).
These three examples are provided to show us that we must count the cost of discipleship. If you do not renounce all you have to God and place it in an open hand before Him you demonstrate a lack of faith in God and a lack of love for God. You see, your willingness is only as strong as your faith and your willingness is only as strong as your God.
What you Should Renounce
What do we renounce? When Jesus says to renounce all things, He means all things. Examine yourself to see whether or not you have given everything you have to God. If God asked for your car, would you give it to Him? Is it His car or your car? If God asked for your family, would your faith be like Abraham’s in Gen 22? If God asked for your life, would you be willing to sacrifice all you have because you know He loves you has knows what is best for you? Take time this week to pray about these things and may God give us the faith, strength, and peace to renounce all that we have to Him.