I’ve often been asked what Jesus meant when he said some of the strange things like we find in Matthew 10:37:
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (NIV).
There are many other says like this one. What Jesus was telling the people was that the Gospel is risky business. He wanted to make sure they understood that following him was not a “walk in the park” in this world.
The family was the primary support structure that people had in the ancient world. You were expected to provide for your father and mother, and your sons and daughters were expected to provide for you. Jesus wasn’t saying that his followers shouldn’t love them, but he was asking them whether they were prepared to lose them if they chose him. He was saying, “Are you prepared to risk everything for my sake?”
Jesus’ point about how the Gospel is risky business is one of the key themes of the tenth chapter of Matthew. Jesus follows his words above, with the following:
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:38–39, NIV).
I’d probably be right in saying that everyone who follows Jesus, does it so that they can gain, and not lose. The secular “business” of the Gospel has made some people very wealthy, but whoever made money from preaching a “poverty gospel”? But God continually tells us that to gain eternal life, we must be willing to risk, and even lose, everything else. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ… 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phil 3:7–10, NIV).
The best kind of risk is when you know that you are perfectly safe.
The apostle Paul is saying that the degree to which you know God is limited by the degree you’re willing to risk for him. Those who are willing to risk little for him, will know God only a little. Those who are willing to risk much for their Saviour will know him more fully. They will drink deeply from the life-giving waters that springs from his heart.
The so-called “hard sayings” of Jesus are his attempt to remind us that the Gospel is a risky business. You have to be willing to let go of everything that is selfish and material in order to understand God and gain eternity.
The model of risk and sacrifice is of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why his call is to “follow me.” Read Philippians 2:5–11 and be reminded of how much Jesus risked for love. That’s the point: he did it for love. When you understand that, and you respond in faith to the free and complete salvation Jesus provides, you’ll know that you’re completely safe in him.
The best kind of risk is when you know that you are perfectly safe. It’s only when you have understood the Gospel that you’ll be able to risk everything for the sake of Jesus.
If you really want to know God, then you need to risk for him; otherwise you’re just a by-stander in the Kingdom. Following Jesus isn’t a spectator sport; it’s risky business.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.