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What does Jesus mean in Luke 14:26 (NRIV) when he says, “Anyone who comes to me must hate their father and mother. They must hate their wife and children. They must hate their brothers and sisters. And they must hate even their own life. Unless they do this, they can’t be my disciple.”


This verse is not about truly hating your relatives but about the cost and sacrifices that we must be willing to make to follow Jesus.

Jesus often used hyperbole in his parables and proverbial statements.  That is, he gives an extreme example or makes an extreme statement to make a point.  This was a customary way of teaching in the First Century.

To understand his meaning here we note that this passage is introducing a conversation that Jesus is having with the crowds that have been following him.  Verse 25 says that “great crowds” were following him.  They were along for the spectacle of it and hoping to gain something for nothing.  Jesus, recognizing they were not interested in being faithful to his teachings or serious about his calling to follow him, used this proverbial statement to instruct them on the true cost of devoting their lives to him.  A true, devoted follower will not need to be hateful to their relatives in order to be obedient to Jesus, but they will need to be prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes to put Jesus first and all else second.

Putting this verse in context we go back to Luke 9:23-27 where Jesus taught “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” There are sacrifices we may be called to make in order to be obedient to Jesus and follow him.  It is not necessary to really hate our loved ones to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, but it may seem like it sometimes when we must leave them behind to go where he calls or to do what he desires.

Also, go back to Luke 5:1-11 and reread Jesus calling of his first disciples.  Verse 11 says, “they left everything and followed him.” Following the disciples travels and dealings all the way through the New Testament we see that they did not really give up everything, but it was the action of putting Jesus first and all else second.  Peter kept his wife and home because we know they returned there often to eat and sleep. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus in Luke 4:38-39.  They remained in Peter’s house even after Peter left them to follow Jesus.  And the disciples had to continue to fish to eat and exist after following Jesus, so they still had their nets even though it says they left them behind to follow him.  It was the sacrifice needed to demonstrate their obedience and complete devotion to Jesus.

Are you willing to give up everything to follow Jesus?  What is it that holds you back?