Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
“Family values” are practically universal. Parents will do almost anything to save their children, whether animal or human. On one of my morning runs I saw a mother bird attacking a cat that had gotten hold of her young. I don’t mean merely dive-bombing the cat. This mother bird was hopping around on the ground next to the cat, pecking at its head, as though it were trying to start a fight.
I know of one mom with cancer who declined chemotherapy in order to save the baby in her womb. She needed the chemotherapy to save her own life. She declined to take it because it certainly would have taken the life of her child.
Jesus doesn’t say it’s wrong to love family and friends. He simply insists he is worth more. Because family affections run so strong, all these relationships pose a potential temptation. Would you compromise your faith in Jesus for someone close to you? Some of the sadder chapters in my ministry have come from counseling or calling on spouses who have given in to that temptation. One spouse is a believer. The other is not. For the sake of peace in the house the believer stops going to church. A wife I know not only tolerated, but even participated in, her husband’s pornography addiction to keep him in the relationship.
Parents dote on their children to the point of compromising their faith. Spanking may not be the appropriate response to every misbehavior. But can you deny that the Bible calls for us to discipline the children that God has entrusted to us? “He who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Yet a worldly affection may set in that just can’t bear to see the little princess suffer. Parents end up making excuses for them instead of holding them responsible.
In other cases, parents’ dreams for their children get in the way of their love for Jesus, too. They are so sure junior has what it takes to play professionally that church is set aside. In its place they haul their little one to to every tournament, every game, every practice or workout that invades the Sunday morning schedule.
Children become guilty of the same thing. The fourth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother,” but even God’s own command can be taken too far. I worked for over two years with one man, trying to lead him to see Jesus as his God and Lord. He was drawn, he was troubled. But the beliefs of his Jewish father, a man he seemed to revere more than Scripture, kept getting in the way.
Jesus’ conclusion when we bump him out of first place is clear: “Not worthy of me.” None of us is ever “worthy” of Jesus in the sense that we have done so much good that he is obligated to love and accept us. Salvation does not come by putting family second, but it could be lost by putting family first. That is against the first commandment, “You shall have no other Gods.” Giving ourselves over to such false values and priorities, is toxic to faith and cuts us off from grace.
Why is Jesus worth so much more? No family member ever has or will sacrifice what he sacrificed to save you. None of them ever traded heaven for earth, but he did. In extreme cases, a family member may give up their life to spare another. But no one else ever carried the full weight of our guilt, and endured the full punishment of hell for our sins, as Jesus did on the cross.
Some dear member of the family may claim they love you so much. Big nut-brown hare may love little nut-brown hare all the way to the moon and back in the popular children’s book. But Jesus loved us all the way to hell and back, and all the way to heaven and back, to save us.
No human family member will ever give us what Jesus gives. Parents give their children a home, the necessities of life, a place to belong, but only Jesus gives a place in the family of God. Members of the family can supply what is needed to keep you alive, but only so long. Someday all their resources will be useless to give you another breath.
But Jesus gives life after death. He gives life that never ends. He takes his people home to heaven. Family is worth a lot, but Jesus is worth even more. Let your love for him reflect his superior value.