Jesus said to his apostles:
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:37-42

When he set out from his palace to seek enlightenment, the Buddha abandoned his wife and newborn son, having named his son the equivalent of “fetter.”  Like Jesus, the Buddha would instruct his disciples to set out to teach, carrying no possessions.  And just as God required the Israelites to collect only one day’s worth of manna (their “daily bread”), the Buddha would instruct his disciples to beg for only the day’s food.  

Self-denial, celibacy, and poverty appear to be normative across all wisdom traditions – at least for disciples.  In modernity, there are two interesting trends in this regard:

First, it is almost universally assumed among people of faith that each of us is called to most demanding form of discipleship.  I am not sure that’s true.  This is not to say wisdom traditions have nothing to teach us laity about how to achieve ‘eudaimonia’ or how to flourish.  To the contrary.  But it may be a mistake to assume we must all leave our families to participate in a lifelong divine program of poverty and celibacy.  Note that while John the Baptist was a committed ascetic, Jesus was the opposite.

Second, even among those who assume such virtues as self-denial are meant to be the pinnacle of spiritual devotion, we doubt that they have value.  We tell ourselves God does not want us to suffer deprivation.  We reduce wisdom seeking to being “a good person” and neglect self-denial and reflection, prayer and liturgy.  I don’t know if there has been a degradation of ‘virtue’ in modernity, but it is empirically demonstrable that we don’t talk about it nearly as much as we did before 1945.   Wisdom-seeking in the context of organized religion is in dramatic decline. Has it been replaced by wisdom-seeking elsewhere?  Or has this fundamental human question simply been abandoned?