Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42

Priority of Faith and Hospitality

Popular Translation

Jesus said to the followers he sent out:

37 Whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy to be my follower. Whoever loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy to be my follower. 38 Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me is not worthy to be my follower. 39 Whoever finds his life only in this world will lose it. But whoever loses his life in this world because of me will truly find it.

40 Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes God, the One whose sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes someone because they are God's messenger will receive the gift God gives his messengers. Whoever welcomes someone because he is good will receive the gift God gives good people. 42 Whoever gives a drink of cold water to anyone because he is my follower will not lose the gift God offers him.

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus presented two themes: the priority of faith and the virtue of hospitality.

Literal Translation

37 The (person) loving (his) father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the (person) loving son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 The (person) finding his very self will lose it, and the (person) losing his very self for my sake will find it.

10:37 "more than me" is literally "above me."

10:39 "very self" is literally "soul or spirit." Jesus did not refer to soul as different from the body. He stressed the sense of authentic self, the inner place of character and values.

The priority of faith demanded radical consequences for early Christians. Since extended, closely-knit families formed the basis of ancient society, a choice for Christ could mean a rejection of the family's faith and values. And, ultimately, excommunication by the family. Outside of one's extended family, a person could easily slide into homelessness.

Jesus reminded his followers that the Christian life involved such risks (a cross to carry in 10:38). And one could not compromise these risks away. A believer could not placate his or her family if the cost threatened faith. No, faith could involve an extreme choice. Either the relationship with family took priority ("...finding life in this world") or the relationship with Jesus took the number one slot. [10:39]

What obstacles get in the way of a Christian commitment? How can you overcome such obstacles?

40 The (person) welcoming you welcomes me, and the (person) welcoming me welcomes the One having sent me. 41 The (person) welcoming a prophet in name will receive the reward of a prophet. The (person) welcoming a (good and holy man) in name will receive the reward of a (good and holy man). 42 Whoever might give a cup of cold (water to drink) to one of these least (important), a disciple in name, amen I say to you, (he) will indeed not lose his reward.

10:41 "(good and holy man)" is literally "righteous (man)." The term "righteous" can have both moral and religious overtones.

10:42 "will indeed not lose" Since the main clause has two negatives (two "not's") the verb is emphatic.

What happened if the follower suffered the worst from his or her declaration for Christ? Fellow Christians would create a new extended family. Here, Christ stressed hospitality. Whoever welcomed the Christian, welcomed Christ and his Father. [10:40] Whoever welcomed those who lived the consequences of radical choice (the traveling missionary and the "good" person who lived God's will), received the same gift of grace God gave to those in ministry. [10:41] Even in the smallest kindness, God rewarded the minister and the host equally. [10:42] Jesus, then, took a popular virtue and turned it into a ministry on par with the missionary.

Faith demands great risks. But it gives great rewards. One could lose his or her family, but the person gains so much more in return.

How can I extend hospitality to other Christians, especially those in need?