When many read such words, they often think of material things. They figure they will need to give away their money or walk away from their house and family.
This is what is called false renunciation.
But that is not what Jesus is speaking of. Jesus is speaking of giving up our attachment to these things, and the hope that these things will make us happy.
This includes the hope that if we become famous or have many followers we will become happy.
This very issue is one of the problems presented by those who give away their material assets or walk away from their positions and go to a monastery and live like a monk or become a priest. They might have left their money and their homes and family, but many will still maintain a vision that they will achieve the respect and attention of others for their so-called renunciation. Many believe they will impress people for their so-called dedication.
As a result, many priests and monks end up striving for followers and a high position among the hierarchy of the institution they have joined. They will be seeking the positions of esteem, such as head monk or high priest or cardinal or bishop or pope or whatever.
In this way, they have simply shifted their materialistic aspirations away from secular society and into ecclesiastical society. Their self-centeredness has not changed.
What Jesus is looking for is a change of heart. He is asking those who follow him to give up their hope that if they achieve something for themselves - whether it be wealth, fame, followers or whatever this physical world offers - they will be happy. (Materialism could never make us happy anyway - because we are not these physical bodies.)
But what is left then?
How can a person become happy if we give up everything we have previously hoped will make us happy?
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’" (Luke 10:27)What is love for God? Besides this being Jesus' most important instruction, to love God means to want to please Him more than we want to please ourselves. It means wanting to serve God more than we want to serve ourselves. "All your heart" means everything. The Supreme Being becomes our heart and soul.
It means giving all of our aspirations and goals to the Supreme Being - and just doing what He wants us to do.
This is called a change of heart.
Changing our heart from being self-centered to being God-centered.
In such a consciousness it doesn't matter how much money we have or how much fame we have or whatever other assets we might have. In such a consciousness, those material things become tools to please God with. One can utilize money in the service of God. One can utilize a house in the service of God. One can utilize fame in the service of God.
For example, Jesus had 12 close disciples around him who helped him manage his travels and food and where he stayed. It is also evident from the scriptures that Judas kept the money and paid for things when needed - whether it was meals or otherwise. In other words, Jesus was not averse to money. He utilized it in his travels. But he wasn't interested in accumulating it. It was simply a tool used in his service to the Supreme Being.
Material things can be used in the service of God if we already have them. We don't have to give them up. We also don't have to leave our families or homes. But if we want to follow Jesus and please God, we do have to give up our attachment to them. We have to give up the notion that we need them and they will make us happy.
Jesus is speaking of commitment here. Giving up our aspirations for materialistic happiness requires a serious commitment. Why? Because the Supreme Being doesn't want those who are wavering in their relationship with Him.
Just consider: Would you want to have a loving relationship with someone who wasn't sure whether they wanted to be with you or be with someone else? Or they just wanted to 'date around'? Who would want such a relationship? Real loving relationships require commitment. This is what the Supreme Being wants, and this is why Jesus is requesting this of his followers: Because Jesus knows what will please the Supreme Being.
This was communicated directly by Jesus:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)