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Should Christians Take a Vow of Poverty?

by Jason on April 28, 2010

Last week I wrote a couple posts on tithing that received some great comments.

The first post on tithing set the stage for the second one, which really looked at How Much Should Christians Give?

I won’t rehash it all, I suggest you read it, but basically the point we came up with was this:

Christians should be willing to give it all because all we have to do is look at Jesus, who gave up everything for us so we could have eternal peace, joy and fellowship with Him!

I received this interesting comment from a reader in that post, which is a very, very good question!  It goes like this:

Since I don’t believe in the supernatural, the whole concept of tithing seems silly.

But, based on what you write in this post it would seem that the logical conclusion for ‘true’ Christians would be to give everything away and take a vow of poverty (like some monks do).

After all, if your aim is to give ‘as much as possible’, well, that’s obviously 100%!

Wow!  Great comment! 

So, why shouldn’t a Christian take a vow of poverty and give away all he has – after all, wouldn’t that be a mark of a true Christian?

Wouldn’t it makes sense like the reader says to give it all away if our aim is to give as much as we can?

In many ways, I can totally relate to this reader!

My wife and I have had this discussion many times.  Why not give up everything and therefore not worry about how much we should give!

But there’s one main problem with that viewpoint


Why Taking a Vow of Poverty Is Not the Answer

Once we realize that we are the problem with ourselves – by that, I mean our hearts are deceitful and sick (Jeremiah 17:9) – we can see that even our best intentions are drenched with selfishness!

You and I can take a vow of poverty – and still hate Jesus!!

We can get rid of everything  and yet never deal with our greed, covetousness and stinginess!

In other words, just because you give it away, doesn’t mean you don’t still love money more than Jesus!

Here’s a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that might be helpful:

If we give away all our possessions, that act is not in itself the obedience that He [Jesus] demands.  In fact, it might be the very opposite of obedience to Jesus.

For we might be choosing a way of life for ourselves, some Christian ideal, or some ideal of Franciscan poverty.

In the very act of giving away his goods, man can give allegiance to himself or to an ideal and not to the command of Jesus.

What Bonhoeffer is saying is that even in our vow of poverty it can be laden with selfishness.

Here’s the other problem with a vow of poverty – the Bible doesn’t tell us to do that – Jesus is more concerned about the heart!

The vow of poverty is not what Jesus is asking for – So what is the command that He’s asking for?

Why Christians Need to Take More Than a Vow of Poverty

Here’s the scary part – Jesus asks us for MORE than a vow of poverty!

Wait a second, how can we give more than all our goods?

Here’s how – The Scripture summons us to follow Him with our whole lives.

Jesus says some pretty crazy stuff – like:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me!


For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it!

Basically, what He is saying is that giving up our lives is really what Jesus is after.

Denying our selves (dying to self-will), taking up his cross (embracing God’s will, no matter the cost), and following Him is what Jesus is asking for.

You can give all of your money to some great Christian cause AND YET – never be a follower of Jesus Christ!!!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Readers, So my question to you is:

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?  Should Christians take a vow of poverty?

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