In Matthew 10 Jesus sent the twelve apostles on a mission. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (Mt. 10:5–8).
In addition to the mandate to spread the gospel to all Jews, they were directed not to bring any money for lodging. Jesus was explicit in His instruction that they should expect to be hosted by others. Even so, there was a critical qualifier about where to bed down.
And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. (Mt. 10:11–13)
Three times Jesus used the word “worthy.” Seek out those who are worthy. Once you enter their house, confirm that everyone inside is worthy. If the house isn’t worthy, find another place. That is a very specific instruction, and one that begs the question, “What qualifies a person as worthy?” The answer comes later in the chapter.
After His initial instructions, Jesus brought up the topic of persecution. He told the apostles that those who follow Him to plan for it. He then transitioned to providing them words of assurance in light of the expected persecution. Notably, He told them, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” It is on the other side of the promise of persecution and the assurance of salvation from judgment that Jesus brings to light what it means to be worthy. Again, He uses the word three times.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt. 10:34–39)
Having laid the groundwork of persecution and assurance, Jesus became very pointed in His words. The message of His gospel is not one of world peace or universal unity. On the contrary, it brings great conflict. In fact, it will generate profound dissention in the most intimate of relationships—father and son, mother and daughter, daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. The point is this. When the stakes are the highest, what will you choose? Will you dissociate yourself from Christ to avoid conflict or accept conflict for the sake of Christ? Therein is lies the answer to the question of being qualified as “worthy.”
It’s a matter of loyalty. If you demonstrate more of it for anything or anybody than you do for Christ than you are not worthy of Him. If you are unwilling to bear the burden that He promised will come as part of living as His disciple, then you are not worthy of Him.
The persecution that’s promised and the salvation that is assured is reiterated in the context of those that are found to be loyal and, subsequently, deemed worthy. Those that sacrifice themselves in this life for Christ will reap the benefits of life in Christ in eternity. Living for Him will generate conflict. Will you embrace it or dodge it? Are you worthy of Christ?
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17–18)