Have you ever heard the phrase “fully involved?” To me, that phrase refers to whether or not you want all of the fixings on your sandwich at Firehouse Subs. However, that phrase actually comes from the world of firefighting. In firefighting jargon the phrase “fully involved” is a “term of size-up” indicating that “the fire, heat, and smoke in a structure are so widespread that internal access must wait until fire streams can be applied.” If I understand this terminology correctly, then it means that a structure is “fully involved” when it is completely engulfed in flames to such a degree that the structure is inaccessible. Or, to say it a little differently, a structure is “fully involved” when it is consumed by the fire to the degree that it is dangerous to the fire’s opponents.
What if we applied this terminology to our spiritual lives? What would it mean to be “fully involved” as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Spiritually speaking, to be fully involved would mean that one has surrendered his or her life to Christ to such a degree that he or she has left no room for other allegiances. To help us better understand the spiritual application of this concept let us explore the examples of the Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus.
First, we encounter the Rich Ruler who approached Jesus with the question “what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18). Up to this point in his life the Rich Ruler had successfully obeyed the Mosaic Law because he was concerned with meeting the bare minimum requirements for salvation. But his strict adherence to the letter of the law ignored the very heart of the law, which consisted of loving God and loving people (Mark 12:29-31). When Jesus challenged him to apply love to his finances by assisting the poor, the Rich Ruler “became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:23), and, as a result, “he went away sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22). So, although the rich ruler was willing to obey God on a bare minimum level, he was unwilling to surrender everything in his life to God. By maintaining accessibility to his wealth for himself, the rich young ruler demonstrated that he was not yet willing to become a “fully involved” disciple. In other words, he had left room for another allegiance, and, as a result, Jesus looked at him and said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24).
Just a few verses later we encounter another man of great wealth whose name is Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’ approach to Jesus was a little different than that of the rich ruler because Zacchaeus had no questions for Jesus, he simply wanted to see Jesus, like a spectator at a presidential parade. Eventually, Zacchaeus’ desire to see Jesus turned into an opportunity to dine with Him, and, the next thing he knew, Jesus was sitting inside his house. Their interaction at this dinner led Zacchaeus to the realization that he needed to right all the wrongs he committed as a tax collector. He voluntarily agreed to give half of his wealth to the poor and to refund four times the excess money he had stolen by overtaxing innocent citizens. Nowhere does the text say that Jesus challenged him with this decision like He did the Rich Ruler. Instead, it becomes apparent that Zacchaeus chose this course of action because he desired to be a “fully involved” disciple. Zacchaeus did what the Rich Ruler wouldn’t; He eliminated all other allegiances and surrendered his wealth to the will of God. As a result, Jesus looked at Zacchaeus, and said “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).
The Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus provide an interesting comparison because they are both men of great wealth and they are both men in need of and in search of salvation. But these two men are quite different in how they responded to Jesus, and it has everything to do with their willingness to surrender their lives to the control of Jesus so there was no access for any competing allegiances, to be so engulfed in love for Him that nothing else mattered, to be so consumed in their devotion to Him that His will took precedence. So, we could say that the difference is whether or not they chose to be “fully involved.”
The truth is that discipleship necessitates a “fully involved” approach. Just look at Jesus’ requirements for discipleship. In Luke 9:23, He said,
“if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
And in Luke 14:26, He said,
“if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children…yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Based on Jesus’ own words regarding the requirements of discipleship we can assert that anything less than complete surrender does not qualify as real discipleship.
This is especially evident when three different individuals were, in a sense, rejected as prospective disciples by Jesus in Luke 9:57-62. The first, after declaring that he would follow Jesus anywhere, apparently reneged on his declaration after learning of Jesus’ uncomfortable and unpredictable itinerant lifestyle. The second, after being invited to follow Jesus, seemingly appealed to other obligations in an attempt to avoid becoming a disciple. Jesus responded to this “would be” disciple by indicating that it is more important to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And the last offered to follow Jesus as long as one particular condition was met first. Jesus responded to this “would be” disciple by indicating that God’s kingdom is too important and its mission to urgent for other interests to delay it.
The lesson to be gleaned from the “would be” disciples is that discipleship necessitates being “fully involved” rather than “somewhat committed.” Scripture seems to indicate that Jesus has no patience for a half-hearted, bare minimum relationship that leaves room for other allegiances. So, you are either “fully involved” (i.e. consumed with Christ) or you are just a “would be” disciple. Which are you?