What does Matthew 8:22 mean “let the dead bury their own dead”?

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By BibleAsk Team


Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead

“Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 8:22

In this passage, Jesus was responding to a request from one of His followers who asked to be excused from his calling to “go and bury [his] father.” As pointed out (on verse 21), these words are in part figurative, in view of the fact that the father was very likely still living and the time of his death was indefinitely in the future.

What Christ probably means is, “Let the spiritually dead bury those who are literally dead.” Christ’s response to the man’s request was designed to stimulate him to action: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:60). In other words, “If you are not spiritually dead, it is your mission to go and preach the kingdom of God. Leave the burial matter to the ones who are not physically dead but who are spiritually dead.”

The danger for this man was in procrastination. Delaying the decision to follow Christ would rob him from a great reward. And it would be best for him to make the break with his old associations now while the Holy Spirit is impressing him.

This person was putting family before God. Christ told him to put God first and focus on his spiritual responsibilities and “love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Lord promised as we seek Him first, all things will fall in place. He said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The highest purpose in man’s existence is that he “should seek the Lord, if haply” he “might feel after him, and find him” (Acts 17:27). Most people are busy working “for the meat which perishes” (John 6:27), for the water for which, when he drinks, he will thirst again (John 4:13). They “spend money for what is not bread, and work “for what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2).

Too often we tend to make “all these [material] things” the main goal of our life, in the fleeting hope that God will be merciful with us and at the end of our lives grant us the eternal kingdom. But Christ would have us make first things first, and promises us that things of little value will be given to us according to our needs. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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