As you know, Platinum members on the blog are allowed to compose blog posts for one another, and I choose one every month or so to publish on the blog at large.   Here is a particularly interesting one by blog member Doug Wadeson, based on a careful and interesting reading of the Gospels.  It’s dealing with an incredibly timely issue and provides a rather unexpected answer.  It involves Jesus and family values.


People often think of Jesus as teaching traditional family values, but in fact he seems to be rather dismissive of the natural nuclear family.  To be fair, maybe his family was to blame.  In Mark 3:20, 21 we are told that some of his family [kinsmen] sought to take custody of him because they thought he had lost his mind.  Not very supportive.  Then when his mother and brothers arrived and called for him, Jesus responded:

“Who are My mother and My brothers?”  Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”   Mark 3:33-35 NASB

Apparently Jesus viewed his disciples as his true spiritual family instead of his natural family.  But Jesus did not leave it there.  In Matthew Jesus gets more direct about family:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  Matthew 10:34-37

Jesus draws a line in the sand: love me more than your family, or you are not worthy of me, even if it causes division in your family.  Luke has similar material in Luke 12:51-53 (suggesting it may be from the Q source[1]), but goes on to make it even more pointed:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not HATE his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26

“Hate” is a strong word to use about your family, but that is the word Jesus uses here, according to Luke.

The apostle Paul’s attitude seems similar to that of Jesus.  In 1 Corinthians 7 he did not encourage his disciples to marry and have families, although he concedes it is better to marry than to “burn” with lust.  And he supplies the likely reason why both he and Jesus were not overly concerned with the family unit:

“But this I say, brothers, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none…”(1 Corinthians 7:29).[2]

Both Jesus and Paul thought that the end of the age was at hand; you need to be concerned with the kingdom of God, not the things of this world that are soon to pass away.  And Jesus did not think marriage was going to be part of the kingdom of God: ““For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)

From this perspective the dismissal of the traditional family unit in favor of a spiritual family makes sense.  Of course, as the early generations of Christians passed away without the return of Jesus, that view was massaged into a more family-friendly one, as expressed in the later pseudepigraphic letters written in Paul’s name.  For example, here the “new” Paul has changed his mind; instead of family being a distraction from the work of God it is a positive boon:

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).  1 Timothy 3:4, 5

It is interesting to note that in Paul’s early authentic letters he never gives any advice about children[3], but in the later pseudepigraphic letters you see such advice, as in Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20, 21; 1 Timothy 3:4, 12, 5:14; and Titus 1:6, 2:4.  I suppose we should give the early church credit for being willing to adapt to an evolving situation.

Did Jesus intend to divide families, or was he simply stating the reality that following him was likely to cause problems in families?  I will discuss this in the second part of the post.


[1]   Matthew appears to alter the words to quote Micah 7:6; the parallel passage in Luke 12 does not follow that Micah passage as closely.  This is consistent with Matthew’s MO of taking Old Testament passages out of context in support of Jesus: the passage in Micah is talking about the strife that occurs in ungodly families, not that caused by seeking to follow God.

[2] Sorry, husbands, read the entire chapter: Paul was NOT giving license to licentiousness with this statement!

[3] Even in the Old Testament there are more laws about livestock than children.