By Hoyt Houchen
Question: I would like for you to deal with Lk. 9:60, “Let the dead bury their dead. ” Who are the “dead” that has the responsibility to bury their dead?
Reply: The word “dead” can be either literal or figurative. One can be literally dead or he can be spiritually dead. Concerning widows, Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 5:6, “But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth.” He wrote to the brethren at Ephesus, reminding them of their condition before conversion, “And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). These and other passages clearly teach that those who are dead in sin are said to be spiritually dead.
The context of Lk. 9:60 shows that Jesus was speaking of the spiritually dead who were to bury their dead. The idea is simply that the spiritually dead should bury the physically dead. It would be impossible for the physically dead to bury their dead, so there is no alternative as to who the dead are who have the responsibility to buy their dead. They are the spiritually dead.
Jesus was teaching true discipleship. The worldly obligations can be fulfilled by those who are spiritually dead and who have no higher interests. This is the idea. Jesus does not forbid his followers to bury the dead per se. Devout men buried Stephen (Acts 8:2) but burying him did not prevent them from serving the Lord. The expression, “Let the dead bury their dead,” teaches us that the spiritually dead can fulfill the duties of this life which may stand between us and doing God’s will. The lesson is one of proper emphasis. Earthly obligations are not to stand between us and our service to God.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 40, p. 642
October 9, 1980