Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Did Jesus address only men in Luke 14:25-27?

For A.A.T

Someone contacted me the other day with a question. Here is part of their message (slightly modified):

It appears in Luke 14:25-27 that Jesus is considering that the women present are not worth considering, or not worth including in teaching. He seems to be only addressing the men in the crowd by saying “wife” and not “husband”. Can you please address this?

Here’s the passage in question:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 (NIV) cf. Matthew 10:37.

And here’s what I wrote back:

There is little doubt that the large crowd (v. 25) that was following Jesus included women as well as men.

While women don’t have wives (well they didn’t in the first century), both men and women, generally speaking, have a father and a mother, and brothers and sisters (v. 26). So I don’t think we can say that Jesus is addressing only men simply because he mentions wives but not husbands. I would say that the six kinds of relatives listed—father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—means that, potentially, no one is left out.

For example, even though I don’t have a biological brother or a wife, I have a father, mother, children, and a sister. Other people may not have children or may not have siblings. Still other people may not have parents who are living. But hopefully, we have at least some family members who are listed by Jesus, which makes his teaching both vivid and personal.

There may, however, have been some in the crowd who had none of the near relations that Jesus mentions, but the principle of loving Jesus more than all others, even more than one’s own life, still applies.

One important point to notice is that Jesus’ words in Luke 14:25-27 and in Matthew 10:37 assume that it is the norm for mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, as well as male relatives, to be loved. Notice also that in Matthew 10:34-39—which corresponds with Luke 14:25-27, and includes a prophecy from Micah 7:6— the couples are gender-paired equally. But I’m not concerned that Luke did not present Jesus’ teaching with precisely equal gender-pairs.

Sandra Glahn was recently asked an almost identical question to the one I received. I think she may be onto something when she suggests Jesus may be quoting from a known saying “created by someone else from a strictly male point of view. His listeners were probably used to hearing, ‘love father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister,’ so Jesus shocks them by saying to hate father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister in comparison to how much they love him. Doubtless that got their attention, just like it still grabs ours all these centuries later.” (Source)

No matter what relatives we may or may not have, Jesus’ main point to the men and to the women in the crowd is this: “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (v.27). We mustn’t lose sight of this message. This is the challenge for us all.

Related Articles

Jesus had many female followers—many!
The Apostolic Ministry of Gospel Women
Female Martyrs and their Ministry in the Early Church

9 thoughts on “Did Jesus address only men in Luke 14:25-27?

  1. Again I am so blessed by your thoughtful probing into the depths of The Word – and concomitantly channeling both brothers’ and sister’ passionate desires to increase and enhance (by lucid understanding of what he meant when He spoke)our intimacy with our Messiah. Your remarkable (and unceasing) energy in helping us “grasp” the Love of Christ (for both men and women) does powerful service for the living and breathing body of Christ. Many thanks and blessings,


    1. Thanks, Ray.

  2. I would also consider a number of other points, and consider the underlying presumptions made. First of all, I find this is clearly am amplification made after Jesus was crucified, evidenced by the remark about bearing our own crosses. That point would have been made after Jesus had been crucified, but not before. This helps us date the text and it helps us better understand the context of the text, and to whom it may have been written.

    If Jesus did say something like this -and he may have- we need to focus on the reasoning behind why one might hate those they love. I would argue that Jesus is *not* saying because you should love him more (that too would be a later interpretation).

    I believe the remark about hating is broader, and should instead be read in terms of do you love this life and things of this life -think: Malkuth; Mammon (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13)- or do you seek spiritual enlightenment over worldly enjoyments, indeed, perhaps over worldly *distractions*.

    Both Matt. 6:24 and Luke 16:13 speak of our being unable to serve two masters, and the choice is framed in terms of serving God or of serving worldly persons/possessions; “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” meaning you cannon serve both the divine God, and the human god, Caesar.

    This is a choice between serving the Sacred, or serving the Profane (meaning non-sacred, worldly).

    And Jesus often saw this fundamental choice much differently than his contemporaries. We need think of the many interactions he had with the Pharisees, and of the ways Jesus interpreted the Jewish torah differently….

    For example: ‘it is not what goes into one’s mouth that defiles, but rather that which comes out’; ‘humankind was not made for the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath was made for humankind’; etc.

    What we eat simply ends up in the sewer, and is nothing more than a biological function. But what comes out of our mouth -our words- reflects the content of our spirit.

    The Sabbath is a period of time set aside for entering/contemplating the Sacred. But if we put up barriers to loving one another in it’s name -not helping/healing others simply because it is named the Holy Day- we miss the very point of the Sabbath: of living our lives is such a way, as best we may, so as to bring more of the Sacred/Divine into this world through our thoughts, words, and deeds; in the best of worlds, we each become conduits through which the Sacred (God) may flow into this world, so that others may experience this profound love.

    Likewise, the question of whether or not God can manifest this Sacred Love in the world without our assistance misses a critical point: *we* too are the better for becoming conduits of this Sacredness into the world!

    All of these points highlight whether we are choosing the Sacred or the Profane. Which do we choose to serve: god or God?

    1. Hi Erik, you make some interesting points.

      That Luke 14:27 is an “amplification made after Jesus was crucified” could well be the case. As you indicate, it couldn’t have made much sense if Jesus had said those exact words before he was crucified.

      I believe that we are all meant to act as agents of Jesus and, through the power of the Spirit, carry on his ministry of love, hope, and healing. And we are indeed the better for being his agents, or conduits of God’s love.

  3. To me, it is obvious that women are included in this teaching. I think I might reference this verse in the future when people say the Bible excludes women from the eldership because they cannot be the “husband of one wife.” I will say, “Are you certain Paul is not being generic in 1 Timothy 3:2?”

    1. Hahaha, I think it’s fairly obvious too, especially when we compare Luke 14:25-26 with the corresponding verses in Matthew’s gospel.

      By the way, I discuss the Greek phrase “one-woman-man” (or “husband of one wife”) in endnote 3 here: https://margmowczko.com/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/

  4. everybody was addressed there.

    1. Indeed. It’s hard to see otherwise.

  5. Hi Margaret,

    Again I must say your ministering has been a comfort and good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, soul, body, and mind. Praise Jesus Christ the darkness is being dispelled around me and in me. Hallelujah!!!Amen.

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