What does Matthew 8:22 mean by "let the dead bury their own dead"?

Does this scripture mean that we should not bury our loved ones? What is the spiritual implication of this verse?


In Matthew:8:22 Jesus said, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead." He was responding to a request from one of His followers who asked to be excused from his responsibilities to "go and bury [his] father" (verse 21).

It might seem that he was asking to make funeral arrangements for his recently deceased father. However, he was actually asking Christ to excuse him from his spiritual responsibilities, so that he could return to live with his aging father until after his father died. Of course, that could mean the disciple would be gone for a long time. It seems he was skirting his spiritual calling and wanted Christ to give His blessing to this action.

Instead, Christ told him to focus on his calling. A better sense of Jesus' statement would be, "Don't neglect the high spiritual calling I've given you; let the spiritually dead attend to the routine tasks of life." Certainly, Christ would not forbid the man from attending to the funeral arrangements for his father. Christ Himself went to visit the family of His friend Lazarus after Lazarus' death—even at great risk of His life (John:11:1-16).

God wants us to care for the needs of our families (Mark:7:10-13; 1 Timothy:5:8), but not to neglect our spiritual calling in the process.

For more insight, please read our booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion .


chronister's picture

I would love to learn more about this. I understood it to mean the man wanted to go bury his recently deceased father and Christ told him "Let the dead bury their dead" because of the importance of following him vs the need to bury a dead person.

Where/how is the verse interpreted as the man trying to get out of his duties to live with his still alive father?

I am eager to learn everything I can about the Word and look forward to learning this.


TomK's picture

I believe Jesus was saying to the guy, look I'm living, I'm alive and taking care of all the daily things that need to be taken care of while I'm still alive, which is what you should do instead of mourning over a dead body or maybe one that is dying.

So follow my example and be alive and active, do not sit and waste precious God given time on dead things and let the dead bury the dead. There are many living who need help.

What I mean by dead is he is saying there are plenty of humans around who love misery, trouble and mournful things, who will never see the light or the kingdom around them. Who will never renew their minds to better things so let them bury your father and you go about life like me...

To waste our precious Earthly time on dead things/bodies instead of continuing to live our lives and care for those who are alive is foolish.

Lena VanAusdle

Lena VanAusdle's picture

I don't think this verse is interpreted as the man trying to get out of his duties to live with his still alive father, although there are verses that address this. We are to care for our families, including our parents (1 Timothy:5:8 and Matthew:15:5-7) if we are able. However, as the article above states, we must not do so at the expense of our relationship with God. That must be first, but we can't use our relationship with God to neglect people either.


angelqueen's picture

when Jesus said let the dead bury their dead ,which mean man
was made of the earth, and the should bury their dead, in a special
field.so a dead person shouldnt be amongs the living . back then,
abranhan didn't know what to do with his wife Sahara . so he pray to god
as where he should bury the dead and he was instructed to a
field. gen:23; 20, talk about bury of the dead , so clearly god didn't tell anyone
to ignore their families. people interpt the bible the wrong way. but if we read
for our self, we will understand.

Ice Mike

Ice Mike's picture

The words of Jesus aren't open to interpretation. Stop trying to trick yourself. Jesus used the word DEAD. He used that word to describe people who are breathing and talking and walking around. He refers to unbelievers as dead. What he meant was everyone who isn't following him was dead. Period. I don't mean to be rude. He's coming back with a sword. By the way, Satan took over your government, enjoy! May the true LIVING Jesus send his spirit to guide you so you don't die dumb.


MarkB's picture

Jesus statement: let the dead bury the dead" indicates he was speaking of spiritual things. Physically dead people cannot bury other physically dead people. Everyone is spiritually dead until we are “born again” with the new life which only Jesus can give.
This man's father then, had to still be alive physically although spiritually dead in his sin. The man's desire to bury his father would mean putting his commitment to following Christ on hold indefinitely until such time that his father died. That shows us that his heart was not in his expressed desire to meet the requirements of following Jesus. He want to be able to dictate the terms of his commitment

Rev Mike

Rev Mike's picture

What Christ was saying is this:"Let those dead in Christ Bury their own."
Jesus Christ is the living God and was aking him to be one of his followers in the living hope.
In other words "The Dead are those of little faith" He was asking the man to take a leap of faith and follow HIM.Not stay behind with those who are dead to HIS word of salvation.
You must remember the man was most likely Jewish back in Biblical times all they knew was the law of Moses Until Christ came in the Flesh and many still did not know HIM other than the son of the carpenter Joseph out of their own ingnorance of the Christ or even what it ment or what he was about or his Father's promise...
We must also remember Christ taught in perables all the time to bridge the education gap that was part of that time....Amen


rwp_47's picture

This fellow was asking Jesus for permission to go and take care of his father's burial. Why would he be asking permission if he hadn't made a commitment of some kind?

With that in mind consider Matthew 10 where he makes these statements that seem to have a bearing on this issue ...
The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

The issue seems to be that if you make a commitment to him then you must keep it ... he is God ... and you shall have no other gods (nothing else) before him ... including Father and mother ... son and daughter. If you commit your time to him then be sure to give your time to him ... and him first.

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