New RelationshipsLuke 14:25-27Theme: Priorities.This week’s lessons remind us that we must surrender all to Jesus.
LessonQuite frequently, when I am conducting weddings, I point out that the family is the most basic of all human institutions. The family was the first school; from the education that took place in the home all other institutions of education – grade schools, academies, colleges, and vocational institutes – developed. The family was the first hospital; healing and nursing originally took place within the home. The family was the first government; from a father’s leadership in his home came patriarchal, monarchical, and eventually democratic forms of human rule. If the family stands, society stands. If the family falls, these other forms of social achievement and order will fall with it.
What right-thinking non-Christian would not want to strengthen it? It is therefore something of a shock to study Christ’s words about discipleship and find him saying what on the surface appears to be the very opposite: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
Clearly this is one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, and it is hard in more ways than one. England’s F.F. Bruce has written a book in which this verse is discussed, and he concludes that it is hard for two reasons: (1) It is hard to accept, and (2) it is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ other teachings. “The attitude which it seems to recommend goes against the grain of nature, and it also goes against the law of love to one’s neighbor which Jesus emphasized and radicalized. If the meaning of ‘neighbor’ must be extended so as to include one’s enemy, it must not be restricted so as to exclude one’s nearest and dearest.”1
One way of handling this problem is to regard it merely as an extreme example of semantic hyperbole. Hyperbole is extravagant exaggeration for the purpose of emphasizing a point. If this is the case here, Jesus is simply saying what in Matthew 10:37-38 he says in calmer tones: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” He would be meaning only that the interests of God’s kingdom must be paramount among his followers.
But there are a number of reasons for thinking that this may be too facile a handling. For one thing, it is probably not a proper interpretation of the word “worthy” in Matthew 10. We take that word lightly. “No one is worthy of Christ,” we think, and we dismiss it. That is probably not what Jesus meant. When he said that anyone who fails to do so-and-so is not worthy of me, he probably meant precisely what he said in Luke 14:26, namely, he cannot be my disciple, which means that he cannot be saved.
Second, the context makes Matthew’s statement stronger than it first appears. It is true that in verse 37 Jesus speaks merely of loving one’s father, mother, son, or daughter more than himself. But in the verses immediately before this he said two very important things. First, he speaks of our failing to acknowledge him before men, saying, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (vv. 32-33). That is speaking of salvation or a loss of it. Second, he speaks of bringing divisions to this world. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ ” (Matt 10:34-36).
1 F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1983), p. 119.
Why is Luke 14:26 one of the hard sayings of Jesus’?
Why can’t we just explain Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26 as mere hyperbole?
Definitionhyperbole: exaggeration for effect and not meant to be taken literally.