Matthew 10:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 10:38, NIV: Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38, ESV: And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38, KJV: And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38, NASB: And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:38, NLT: If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Matthew 10:38, CSB: And whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

What does Matthew 10:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Who is worthy to follow Jesus? He has made clear to His disciples that He demands to be loved above all other relationships, including parents and children (Matthew 10:37). Only God could make such a demand. To love God is the greatest commandment. Those who refuse to choose Jesus first make themselves unworthy of being His disciples. They disobey God's command to love Him with everything they have.

Now Jesus deepens the power of this teaching. Most people living in the Roman Empire at this time would have had a vivid picture in mind of condemned criminals carrying the beam of their own cross toward the place of their execution. The Romans forced prisoners to do this as a kind of confession. By participating in their own execution, they were admitting—or, at least, submitting to the claim—that the Roman government was right to put them to death. Christ said this before His own death on the cross. What could He possibly mean when He says that those who do not take up their cross and follow Him are not worthy of Him?

Jesus said to those who would follow Him that they must also participate in putting themselves to death. His meaning, in the context of His other teachings, is that a believer must die to themselves. They must be willing to let go of their own agendas and personal dreams and ways of living. They must willingly submit to walking the difficult path of Christ all the way to the end of their lives. Nobody can call himself or herself a follower of Jesus and, at the same time, follow their own path, do things their own way, ignore the righteous life God has called them to. Those who will not die to themselves and live for Jesus are not worthy to follow Him.

Notice that this issue of worthiness to live as a disciple of Jesus is one of self-selection. That is, all must choose to love Jesus more than everyone else—or not. All must choose to die to themselves and live for Him alone—or not. To choose "not" is to become unworthy of following Him. Jesus does not declare them unworthy for following Him badly. Those who will "not," who refuse, make themselves unworthy because of their lack of complete and total commitment to Him.