Why Does Jesus Say Whoever Loves Their Family More Than Him Is Unworthy?

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“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” (Matthew 10:37).

Does Jesus hate families? Why would he make such a drastic and harsh statement? After all, Jesus had a mother and father and even brothers. (Maybe it could be easy to not love his brothers sometimes…but mom?) Clearly there is more to this verse and it’s important to understand what Jesus means.

Jesus is not saying don’t love your family. Jesus is not anti-family. Jesus loves families and loves people. Many times when he was walking the earth he would see crowds and the Bible says he would have compassion on them. This compassion flowed from a heart full of love. Also in Matthew 15 and 19, Jesus reminds the Pharisees and a rich young ruler to honor your father and mother. We know that Jesus doesn’t want you hating or not loving your family.

The Hierarchy of Love

When you consider this verse of Scripture, there are three words that stand out. Those words are “more than me.” When you understand those words, this verse can come into focus quickly. This concept starts in the Old Testament with the first of the ten commandments

“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

Right off the bat when giving instruction to his people, the nation of Israel, God establishes a principle: He must be first. Your love for him must be first. Don’t love anyone more than me. Don’t put anything before me. I must always be your first love. For anyone to put anything or anyone before God is idolatry. Jesus was simply confirming what God had said before. 

There was an instance where Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. Here was Jesus’ reply:

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Notice in these scriptures the hierarchy of love. It all starts with loving God first, more than anything or anyone. Jesus was saying if I can’t be your first love then you can’t follow me. I know this is a hard saying but he has to occupy that position. Jesus must the center of your life and everything needs to flow out of that. If anything else is at the center, then that thing becomes the lord of your life and that will not work.

In Revelation 2 Jesus gives a message to the church in Ephesus. After commending the church for their deeds, hard work, endurance, and perseverance he proceeds to make an astonishing statement:

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

This church had left their first love, Jesus. The next words from Jesus are even more shocking:

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Revelation 2:5).

When something or someone other than Jesus occupies the position of your first love, you have fallen from a secure place to a dangerous place. If you have found yourself there, then do whatever you must do to return Jesus to that position of first love.

Why First Love Matters

Here are four reasons why God demands and deserves the place of first love in your life.

1. He Created You

God knit you together in your mother’s womb. He is the one who formed you and shaped you. He gave you your creativity, your talents, your gifts, and all of your abilities. It all comes from him. Loving him first is one way of showing appreciation for him making you the person you are.

2. He Saved You

We were all born in sin. We were all separated from God, and honestly God could have left us in that condition, but he didn’t. Because he so wanted to be in fellowship with us, he sent his son to win us and redeem us back to him. This act alone deserves our commitment to make him the most important person in our lives.

3. He Loves You

John 15:13 declares “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We also see in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Because God has poured out such extreme love for you and I, because he has gone to such great lengths to display how much he loves us, he has earned the right to be the first love in your life.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Estradaanton

4. He Has Good Planned for You

Ephesians 2:10 declares “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Before you were ever born, God had good works planned for your life. He has your best intentions at heart. Not only does he have good plans, but he has the ability to make them come to pass, for those who love him. Remember Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (emphasis added).

God has nothing but the best planned for you both now and throughout eternity. This is why you need to love him first and more than anyone else.

A Way to Remember

In our house we have a simple saying about organizing how we prioritize our time, but it also works with how we prioritize our love as well. Here it is:

God, Family, Career, Ministry

Love God more than anything else. Love you family because those are the ones you are responsible for. Love you career because that is how you take care of your family. You’re your ministry because that is how you serve God, his people and advance the message of the gospel. (By the way if you don’t agree with the order I will gladly have a conversation with you about it).

Jesus’ passage in Matthew is all about the way you order your life and who will get the all-important seat on the throne of your heart. There is only one throne and only one person can sit on it. Because of his great love for you and all he has done for you, Jesus needs to be seated on that throne. He requires it. He deserves it. He’s earned it. Make Jesus the Lord of your life and the object of your first love and let everything else flow out of that.

Clarence Haynes

Clarence Haynes