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

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

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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" (Matthew 8:21).

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.