Is Matthew 10:37 too difficult to obey?                         By Jack Kettler


In this study, the meaning of “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worth of me” will be considered. Alternatively, as Luke puts it, “and hate not his father and mother….”


 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)


“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)


In Matthew and Luke, Christ is talking about his disciples.


What is a disciple?


The simplest definition of a “disciple” is someone who adheres to or follows the teachings of another. In the Christian case, the disciples follow Christ.


Since Luke appears to be the stronger warning, consider:


From Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible commenting on Luke:


“If any man come to me.... Not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual way; nor barely to hear him preach; but so, come, as that he believes in him, applies to him for grace, pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation; professes to be his, submits to his ordinances, and desires to be a disciple of his;


and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple: not that proper hatred of any, or all of these, is enjoined by Christ; for this would be contrary to the laws of God, to the first principles of nature, to all humanity, to the light of nature, to reason and divine revelation: but that these are not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than he, as it is explained in Matthew 10:37 yea, these are to be neglected and forsaken, and turned from with indignation and resentment, when they stand in the way of the honour and interest of Christ, and dissuade from his service: such who would be accounted the disciples of Christ, should be ready to part with their dearest relations and friends, with the greatest enjoyment of life, and with life itself, when Christ calls for it; or otherwise they are not worthy to be called his disciples. The Ethiopic version inserts, ‘his house’, into the account.” (1) (underlining and bolding emphasis mine)


In Deuteronomy, there is a similar passage:


“Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.” (Deuteronomy 33:9)


Deuteronomy refers to the Levites.


Consider Keil and Delitzsch’s Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament regarding the Deuteronomy passage:


“In these temptations Levi had proved itself “a holy one,” although in the latter Moses and Aaron stumbled, since the Levites had risen up in defence of the honour of the Lord and had kept His covenant, even with the denial of father, mother, brethren, and children (Matthew 10:37; Matthew 19:29). The words, “who says to his father,” etc., relate to the event narrated in Exodus 32:26-29, where the Levites draw their swords against the Israelites their brethren, at the command of Moses, after the worship of the golden calf, and execute judgment upon the nation without respect of person. To this we may add Numbers 25:8, where Phinehas interposes with his sword in defence of the honour of the Lord against the shameless prostitution with the daughters of Moab. On these occasions the Levites manifested the spirit which Moses predicates here of all the tribe. By the interposition at Sinai especially, they devoted themselves with such self-denial to the service of the Lord, that the dignity of the priesthood was conferred upon their tribe in consequence. - In Deuteronomy 33:10 and Deuteronomy 33:11, Moses celebrates this vocation: “They will teach Jacob Thy rights, and Israel Thy law; bring incense to Thy nose, and whole-offering upon Thine altar. Bless, Lord, his strength, and let the work of his hands be well-pleasing to Thee: smite his adversaries and his haters upon the hips, that they may not rise!” The tribe of Levi had received the high and glorious calling to instruct Israel in the rights and commandments of God (Leviticus 10:11), and to present the sacrifices of the people to the Lord, viz., incense in the holy place, whole-offering in the court. “Whole-offering,” a term applied to the burnt-offering, which is mentioned instar omnium as being the leading sacrifice. The priests alone were actually entrusted with the instruction of the people in the law and the sacrificial worship; but as the rest of the Levites were given them as assistants in their service, this service might very properly be ascribed to the whole tribe; and no greater blessing could be desired for it than that the Lord should give them power to discharge the duties of their office, should accept their service with favour, and make their opponents powerless. The enemies and haters of Levi were not only envious persons, like Korah and his company (Numbers 16:1), but all opponents of the priests and Levites. The loins are the seat of strength (Psalm 69:24; Job 40:16; Job 31:1; 17). This is the only place in which מן is used before a finite verb, whereas it often stands before the infinitive (e.g., Genesis 27:1; Genesis 31:29).” (2)


The Levites were set apart and consecrated by God in service to administer the types and shadows of the sacrificial worship system that pointed forward in history to the redemption of the New Covenant found in Christ. Like the Levites of old, Christ’s disciples are called and sanctified in service to Christ.


It is possible to some extent to see discipleship and sanctification as overlapping or synonymous. Furthermore, discipleship is impossible without sanctifying grace.  


Being set apart in sanctification can be described as a calling and takes many forms. For example:


“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.” (Romans 12:4)   


In addition:


12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also, is Christ.

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (1 Corinthians 12:12; 27-29)


It can be ascertained from the above passages that there are many calling in the body of Christ. These callings can be diverse, encompassing spheres such as callings within the church, business, the arts, civil service, family, etc.


Not surprisingly, the majority of Christ’s disciples are not working in full-time church work. There are a limited number of pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists, and missionaries.   


What does it mean for Christians today to be disciples in their calling? Most believers are employed or self-employed. Nevertheless, regardless of one’s station or vocation in life, all Christians are to be disciples. All Christians follow Christ and His teachings. At work, Christians follow Christ and bear witness to His truth verbally or by applying His teachings in events throughout the day. Discipleship is not monasticism.


We are to be in the world, advancing the cause of Christ.




“Luther's return from the cloister to the world was the worst blow the world had suffered since the days of early Christianity.” (3)


What is the relationship between discipleship and sanctification?


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his “The Cost of Discipleship,” has something to say about discipleship and sanctification:


“The otherworldliness of the Christian life ought, Luther concluded, to be manifested in the very midst of the world, in the Christian community and in its daily life. Hence the Christian's task is to live out that life in terms of his secular calling. That is the way to die unto the world. The value of the secular calling for the Christian is that it provides an opportunity of living the Christian life with the support of God's grace, and of engaging more vigorously in the assault on the world and everything that it stands for. Luther did not return to the world because he had arrived at a more positive attitude towards it. Nor had he abandoned the eschatological expectation of early Christianity. He intended his action to express a radical criticism and protest against the secularization of Christianity which had taken place within monasticism. By recalling the Christians into the world, he called them paradoxically out of it all the more. That was what Luther experienced in his own person. His call to men to return to the world was essentially a call to enter the visible Church of the incarnate Lord.” (4)


Believers are in the world but not of it. As Abraham Kuyper noted:


“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” (5)


“Sanctification means that the Christians have been judged already, and that they are being preserved until the coming of Christ and are ever advancing towards it.” (6)


For Bonhoeffer, discipleship is a lifelong how-to question, a question that must be asked daily by believers. Bonhoeffer’s belief regarding discipleship was that Jesus calls believers to follow Him in life’s mundane and intricate realities. In other words, in the world but not of it, always seeking to be faithful adherents of Scripture.


The means of grace is inescapably intertwined with the Reformed idea of discipleship. Christ disciples us through the ministries of the church, i.e., pastoral ministry, elder visitations, Christian education classes, and exhortations through the fellowship of the brethren.


Chapter XIII. Of Sanctification


I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, (1Co 6:11; Act 20:32; Phl 3:10; Rom 6:5-6); by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, (Jhn 17:17; Eph 5:26; 1Th 2:13): the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (Rom 6:6, 14); and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, (Gal 5:24; Rom 8:13); and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, (Col 1:11; Eph 3: 16-19); to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, (2Co 7:1; Hbr 12:14).


II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man, (1Th 5:23); yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part, (1Jo 1:10 Rom 7:18, 23; Phl 3:12); whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, (Gal 5:17; 1Pe 2:11).


III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail, (Rom 7:23); yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome, (Rom 6:14; 1Jo 5:4; Eph 4:15-16); and so, the saints grow in grace, (2Pe 3:18; 2Co 3:18); perfecting holiness in the fear of God, (2Co 7:1).


In closing:


As seen from the Scripturally-based Westminster Confession on sanctification, the beginning question regarding Christ’ Words, are these words too hard to obey; it can be said absolutely no. Sanctification is a work of grace in the life of believers. With the sinful nature being changed, Christ is their first love for believers.




“Discipleship is commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship


Therefore, “Be ye therefore followers [imitators] of God, as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1)


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Luke, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 387.

2.      Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 502.

3.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 48). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

4.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 265). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

5.      Kuyper’s famous “square inch” slogan accurately reflects his vision of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It comes from his inaugural address, “Sphere Sovereignty,” at the opening of the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880.

6.      Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship (p. 279). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com