Let the Dead

One of the more surprising, and perhaps more easily misunderstood sayings of Jesus comes as He calls one to follow Him, who then asks for permission to first go and bury his father. Yeshua responds, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:59-60) Unlike other encounters in the immediate context, this does at first appear to be a direct command to abandon what is generally considered a legitimate family duty.

The command presumes of some capable members of the man’s family a spiritual deadness: they are unregenerate, dead to spiritual things, the way we all start out. (Ep 2:1) Yeshua is evidently saying worldly concerns are best relegated to the worldlings who care about them.

The key word is evidently Let, from the Greek Ἄφες (Aphes), to allow, permit, leave alone or forgive. The idea isn’t that we’re neglecting personal responsibility, such as a true parental obligation (De 27:16), but rather that we prefer to defer temporal affairs into the care of those who are capable and have a vested interest when this is appropriate. In worldly matters, we manage our affairs so as to let others spend their time and energy managing the detail as they like, giving ourselves more resources to focus on heavenly things.

It seems very likely, in the case of this particular disciple, that he wants to manage the arrangements of his father’s funeral because he cares too much about them; his priorities are misaligned so he is unwilling to defer to others. He has a calling on his life that is suffering because of this inordinate concern, and Christ is evidently telling him to let go; all his fussing isn’t actually going to benefit his father, his family prefers to handle it themselves and can do so adequately enough.

Another key to this context is the idea of first: setting proper priorities and boundaries in our lives. This gifted disciple wants to temporarily delay a kingdom duty to manage a temporal concern. (Lk 9:59) Yet how easy it is for days to turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. It ought not to be so in kingdom matters.

It is a mistake to suppose a delay is necessary, and therefore excusable, when it is a true duty. This is often simply an excuse to neglect our spiritual responsibility because we aren’t fully committed to it, and in that case one delay invariably leads to another. If we know we ought to be doing something and we have a kingdom-first mindset (Mt 6:33), there’s a way to get it done, if we’re simply willing to do it. If there isn’t, we ought not be doing it.

articles  ♦  blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.