Bible Contradictions: How to Hate Your Mom While Honoring Her (Luke 14:26)

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

I’ll admit it. This isn’t one of the few verses my wife and I have tried to commit to my three-year old son’s formative sponge like memory.

I don’t remember it being stressed by my parents in my early childhood either, though I do recall a reference or two to the fifth commandment: “Honor thy mother and father…” (Exodus 20:12)

I imagine many parents wouldn’t appreciate the questions an inquiring six-year-old mind could muster up with a reading of Luke 14:26. But six-year olds who refuse to eat their greens aren’t the only ones with questions regarding this verse.

Many skeptics would make the claim that Luke 14:26 is a direct contradiction of Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2:

“‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise.”

(To read my first post on Bible contradictions go here)

Skeptics and Six Year Olds Unite!

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible tries to make the point for six-year olds. The SAB commentary says the command in Luke 14:26 is a blatant contradiction, “against family values”, and cruel in its intent. It is interesting how so many contemporary minds with no theological training claim exclusive interpretive authority when dissecting the meaning of verses. I wonder if they give the same respect and authority to pastors who may have an opinion on the origins of life (I digress).

To assume this skeptical stance on Luke 14:26 one would have to assume the word for “hate” in the Bible must only be restricted to its modern meaning: to despise, loathe or detest.

If “hate” is only restricted the 21st century understanding of the term, then Jesus never practiced such abhorrence against his madre. In reality, Christ ensured his mom was fully taken care of as he hung on the cross in his waning moments (John 19:25-27).

Jesus refused to subject his mother to a tired life of shuffleboard and Old Testament crossword puzzles. He loved her.

When the Rich Young Ruler inquired of eternal life one of Christ’s commands to him was to, “honor your mother and father” (Matthew 19:19).

How can we reconcile the command of Christ to honor our parents on one hand with the command of Christ to hate them in the other?

I Love Your Guts Less

A little historical language study would do the skeptic well here. It is well known that in ancient Jewish idiom, hate could also mean “love less.” Genesis 29:30-31 is a perfect example of this:

“Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah.” Yet, in the next verse the Bible says, “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb” (29:31, KJV). Jacob did not despise, detest, and treat Leah like an arch-enemy, as in the modern use of the word “hate.” Instead, he simply loved Rachel more than he loved Leah.

When  the love/hate contrast is paired together in ancient Eastern literature many times it is speaking not in terms of affection/disdain but of greater love/lesser love.

Numerous Greek scholars have added their combined years of study to the discussion to testify that the word “hate” (miseo) in Luke 14:26 does not mean “an active disdain,” but means “to love less.” For instance, E.W. Bullinger, in his work, “Figures of Speech Used in the Bible”, described the word “hate” in Luke 14:26 as hyperbole. He rendered the word as meaning “does not esteem them less than me.”

The point is not about actively hating one’s parents, it’s about loving Christ more than anyone or thing in the world, even the most intimate relationships we share on earth. If we love our parents more than we love Christ then we make them an idol. To make anyone an idol of our affection is not real love since it is not putting first the God who is Love.

Jesus clarifies everything

The “love less” sentiment of Luke 14:26 is found in the words of Christ in Matthew 10:37:

Matthew 10:37:

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Luke 14:26 is a shocking way to say Christ should be supreme in all things, even in a child’s natural affection for his mother. Christ graciously used such radical statements to awaken us out of our hard hearted stupor. Such verbosity was necessary to penetrate our darkened dull hearts.

Luke 14:26 is simply another way of stressing the greatest commandment to us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

When we love Christ above all, we point people to Christ and His undying love in the gospel. And in this way we truly honor people…especially our moms.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

43 thoughts on “Bible Contradictions: How to Hate Your Mom While Honoring Her (Luke 14:26)”

  1. Good to read your eloquent explanation! I say ‘eloquent’ because I always lacked grace (a little clumsy) with the treatment. Well done.

  2. Hey Chief,

    Good thoughts. I often find the whole realm of Bible contradictions (or at least the act of working through them with those who believe in them) frustrating. The starting point is the most crucial aspect of the whole discussion. If my starting place is that the Bible is a nice quasi-historical document that can shed light on our understanding of a people who lived many centuries ago, but has little or nothing to say to people living today, I will come to the conclusion that passages can and do contradict each other. If on the other hand I believe the Bible is the Word of God, I recognize that every word, although penned by many different people at many different times, all in fact boast the same Authorship, i.e. the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. This belief leads (most) Christians to understand so-called “contradictions” very differently.

    I’ll be the first to agree there are some challenging passages in Scripture. I could take the easy road and claim they must be contradictory. I could take the even easier road and exclude the passages I don’t like. Or I could take the infinitely more challenging (yet much more fulfilling and faithful) road of figuring out and understanding how the passages work together. The latter provides the most benefit to the reader!

    The problem is, if someone does not have faith, the Bible is impossible to interpret and understand. As you mentioned, however, that hurdle does not stop many from trying! Even those who have faith have our own challenges of understanding and interpreting what our Lord is speaking to us through His Word. All of God’s Word to us require our attentiveness and awareness, but those passages that are more challenging to understand require special attention and much time and prayer. Bible reading is never something to be done lightly or carelessly. The recorded Words of Holy Scriptures are the timeless Words of the Creator who has deigned to reveal Himself in such a way.

    As always, thanks for sharing and helping us work through a challenging topic!

    In Christ,
    Corey

  3. Interesting! I’ve always wondered about that word “hate” in the Bible – especially when it pertains to how God feels about a person because I know that God is love. Your article makes a lot of sense. Definitely something I’ll be studying further. Thanks for posting this! 🙂

  4. I just left a site that had ping-ed one of my articles, so I went to check it out. I was lost the entire way through it, and I have to re-read it later, because I think I don’t agree with it. Sadly, I’m not confident enough in my comprehension ability to say one way or another. My brain doesn’t twist easily into modes that require deep philosophical thoughts on spirituality…I left his site, commenting on my confusion, in which he graciously pointed me to the easier articles he had written ( The Special Ed Articles, if you will), and feeling pretty simple, like a country bumpkin at a White House Dinner. I look stupid when I try to hold my own in conversations like this.

    But after reading this, I realize that I’m not completely inept at understanding a spiritual yet intellectual argument. I followed along, understood all the words with out having to look any of them up, and most importantly, I agree with you completely. Makes perfect, uncomplicated sense. Two thumbs up!

    Thank you for helping me off the short bus, Chief!

    — Bird

  5. Interesting. Did not know this and will definitely investigate it further. Always nice to learn something new.
    Where did the author of Luke get this quote from? He certainly was never in Palastine.
    Any ideas?

    1. Hey ark (just remembered I said I’d get back to you your last comment and didn’t! I looked at a few things but I’d rather dialogue over email)

      As far as where Luke got this quote from I don’t know for sure. He wasn’t an eyewitness to Jesus but relied on “eyewitnesses” (1:2). The author seemed to be closely affiliated with Paul (according to Acts) and would have access to the apostles. My best guess (not saying it’s a conclusive one) is from one of them!

      Peace and grace!

  6. Hello Bryan,

    Could you please tell me which Greek scholars you are referring to? I must get Bullinger’s book .. but in the meantime, the internet has lots to read.

    Thank you,
    Ama

      1. Thank you. Problem is, I was taught in church that the bible was the ‘literal’ word of God, and we should read it literally, and that it was as relevant to today as when it was written .. so ‘hate’ becomes the modern version of ‘hate’, otherwise God would have rewritten the book .. after all he let humanity reinterpret the meaning of the word??

        BTW, I don’t believe that at all, but I know any number of church people who do. They prefer to ignore the very obvious contradictions in the book, rather than confront the reality of us having to question the meanings to make them make sense.

        Love & Peace
        Ama

        1. I agree that ignoring the more difficult texts is well ignorant!

          I do believe the Bible was written for us (though not directly “to us”) and it is relevant for us today (otherwise I never would read it!), and it is the “God-breathed” word (2 Tim 3:16).

          IMO it just demands special care: good hermeneutics, some trustworthy ancient language study, and historical context.

          Thank you for your compelling comments!

  7. Great work. I love the way Scripture uses those tensions to make us sit up and take notice. God is three in one, Jesus God and man, etc and hate and love your mum!

  8. So well written! Great thoughts on this verse. It’s a verse I come back to a lot…in all those inevitable moments where I exalt something above God. Loved this line: “To make anyone an idol of our affection is not real love since it is not putting first the God who is Love.”

    Thanks for a great post!

  9. Excellent post! This is one of those texts that gnaw at some, yet they never spend the time to research the meaning behind the word “hate” in this context. Thanks for clearing it up!

  10. I have tried to make sense of that verse a few times, and this was a great eye-opener. It’s like what you posted about the KJV – Words change, or rather the meanings of words change. They get updated. We need to correctly understand the original intent behind the word so that we don’t mess it up. Thanks

    1. Hi Car_Ann,

      we also need great translations from the original languages. I went to university and studied Theology so that I could really get to understand not only what was written, but the people who did the writing. They recommended The New Oxford Annotated Bible as the best translation to date .. after years of KJV versions, it was an eye-opener to see the differences, and not just mistranslations, but whole sections of added in interpretations that are not in the Hebrew .. or was it the Greek, this time, I was looking in? LOL I’ve beeen flipping between the OT and NT so much the last few days, I’ve forgotten?

      Love & Peace
      Ama

  11. I always believed this verse was saying that we cannot love anyone or anything more than we love Jesus. Never knew there was a Skeptics Bible but I’m interested in reading it — not because I’m a skeptic, but I’d like to know what skeptics have to say so that I can be prepared when I’m called to answer one of them. Sandy

  12. i love this. I heard a whole sermon in this exact topic at the Austin Stone Community Church. I love that there are those out there who will take the time to explain these seemingly contradictory verses. I would never have understood this verse by a simple daily reading. It’s amazing how simple the bible can seem to one eye, but how truly complex it is once it is broken down. Nice work 🙂

  13. So, I’m discovering more and more the need to understand context, definitions, etc. when reading Scripture. As I start to dig into The Bible more, I am starting to see why people study the Hebrew and Greek words, to gain better understanding for themselves.

    Wonder what I should do with that promise I made myself in third grade that when I grew up I’d never study anything again, ever, and would eat ice cream for breakfast daily. Wonder if it’s time I dropped that first part and maybe started on the second.

    Thank you for your thoughts/insights. Helps me stay inspired to really dig into this stuff for myself.

  14. I agree with you. Great post 🙂 I heard that somewhere before – that the greek word for hate in this instance simply meant we needed to love God more than our parents.

  15. It’s easy to choose lines to feed one’s own agenda like Atheists do to try and provoke people to go against God’s words and how people that do not read their bible with God’s guidance or simply not read it at all are quickly fooled.
    There is always reasoning for what is said, one just needs to seek the truth for themselves and ask God to guide them as they do.

    Thanks for posting…

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