“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

These words can make us cringe. Does Jesus really expect us to leave the corpses of loved ones to rot while we go off and follow him? Does he really want us to show such callous disregard for our families? Of course not. Jesus used extreme statements like this to make it clear that he wants us to take the call to follow him seriously.

Jesus wasn’t telling this fellow not to bury his father. How could he? The Mosaic law placed a high value on this solemn act. Rather, he wanted this would-be disciple to set his priorities in a different way. He wanted to see him make the call of Jesus his first priority, and to let everything else in his life fall in line behind this.

Jesus asks the same thing of us. If we were to translate his statement into the less extreme language of our time, we might come up with some­thing like this: “Follow me, and all your other responsibilities—at work, at home, with your finances, and with your family—will begin to sort themselves out.” He doesn’t want excuses—even noble ones like bury­ing the dead—to convince us that discipleship is too hard for us.

Now if you’re feeling a bit guilty that you are not following Jesus as fully as possible, relax. The fact that you are sitting here reading this med­itation shows that you are already putting forth some effort. But maybe today is a good time to take just one more step along the road of disciple­ship. Maybe you can ask: “How can I better live out Jesus’ teaching on for­giveness at work today?” Or: “How can I live out the call to be a peace­maker at home this week?”

As you work on this one area, you will probably find other areas of your life affected as well. Your em­phasis on forgiveness may make you more patient as well. Your efforts at peacemaking may give you a greater appreciation for your family. Maybe you’ll find something completely unexpected happening. Just seek first the kingdom, and everything else will be given to you!

“Jesus, I want to follow you. Help me to focus on just one area today, so that I can match my thoughts and actions to your example.”

Amos 2:6-10, 13-16 Psalm 50:16-23