Matthew 10:38-42  Cost/Benefit Analysis

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 18 Mar. 2012


10:32 Therefore, whoever will confess being with me in front of men,
            I will also confess being with him in front of my Father in the heavens.

10:33 But whoever shall not speak up for me in front of men,

            I will also not speak up for him in front of my Father in the heavens.

10:34 Don’t y’all start assuming that I came in order to drop off peace onto the earth;
            I didn’t come in order to drop off peace, but rather a sword!

                        10:35 For I came to divide

                                    a man against his father

                                    and a daughter against her mother

                                    and a bride against her mother-in-law,

                        10:36 and the man’s enemies will be those of his household.

10:37 The one who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me,

            and the one who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me.

10:38 and he who is not accepting his cross and following after me is not worthy of me.

10:39 The one who has found his life will destroy it,

            but the one who has destroyed his life for the sake of me, he will find it!

10:40 The one who is receiving y’all is receiving me,

            and the one who is receiving me is receiving the One who commissioned me.

10:41 The one who receives a prophet in a prophet’s name will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous man in a righteous man’s name will receive a righteous man’s reward,

10:42 and who ever happens to provide drink to one of the little ones among these guys – a cold drink only, in a disciple’s name, I tell you truly, he shall never destroy his reward.

Subsequent scripture quotes in this sermon are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.


Last week, we looked at what it means to confess Christ. We saw that it includes: 1) belief that Jesus died to save you, 2) verbal proclamation of the same to others, and 3) actual obedience to God’s word. This requires a total life alignment to be with Christ instead of with the world.


This also means sacrificing the things of this world. Two weeks ago, Art Doolittle talked about making those sacrifices and enduring persecution. But this week I want to consider the question, “Is it worth all that?” Is confessing Christ worth losing family relationships over? It is worth getting killed over? Mathew Henry once wrote, “If religion be worth anything, it is worth everything.” And I believe God’s word teaches us that the prize is worth the price!


Pearl of Great Price parable (Mat. 13:44-46)  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found… and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Review of the cost

Mat 10:38 and he who is not accepting his cross and following after me is not worthy of me.

καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστι μου ἄξιος.

a.       This is the first mention of a cross in the New Testament.

b.      The disciples may not have fully understood what Jesus meant when He said this, for He hadn’t been crucified yet, and the disciples weren’t expecting Him to be crucified.

c.       But it was the Roman custom to make criminals carry the crosspieces of wood to the execution site before they were crucified. It was a symbol of embracing your own death.

d.      In the future, this would be applied literally to Jesus’ disciples:

·         Some of them were literally put to death by hanging on crosses like Jesus’.

·         Jesus had already warned His disciples that death was a real possibility for following Him and told His disciples not to be afraid of dying: “Brother will deliver brother to death (v.21)… You will be hated by all because of my name (v.22)… Do not fear those who kill the body (v.28)… enemies will be in your own household (v.36).”

·         This is also the point there Luke records Jesus as saying, “Count the cost.” Is it worth it to you to die rather than deny Christ? Is His life really worth dying for? Is it really a price you can pay? Yes, Yes, and Yes! More on that in the following verses!

·         By the way, the fact that other martyrs besides Jesus were crucified should not confuse us into thinking that their suffering was all the same thing. Jesus’ death on the cross was unique; He alone was “made to be sin” on our behalf. He alone died to save sinners. No one else’s suffering could ever do that.

e.       Now, whether or not we ever have to literally be crucified, and whether or not we ever have to face death of any sort at the hands of persecutors, we will all need to apply this figuratively:

·         So many voices in our world say to “be yourself,” but Jesus is saying, “Die to yourself.”

·         Don’t be Nate Wilson anymore; be Jesus instead.

·         Don’t make a name for Jim Porter, make a name for Jesus Christ.

·         Stop doing the will of Steve Miller and do the will of God. This is dying to yourself.

·         Note that it is your own cross. Each man’s cross is unique, and the things you are called to lose as you die to yourself may be different from what God calls other people to lose. Don’t get derailed by wishing you had somebody else’s cross; it would not do for you.

f.       This is not speaking of a one-time act, either. Maybe you died to yourself when you first became a Christian, but Jesus used a Present tense here which indicates a continual reckoning of oneself as dead and a continual following after Jesus in order to be worthy or fitting to be His disciple.

g.      Really no other way would be fitting. Can you imagine if you were in Jerusalem at the time of Christ and you ran into some dude who said he was a follower of Christ:
“Really!” you ask excitedly, “Is He nearby?”
“No, I don’t think so,” the disciple replies, “He was heading up to Lebanon last I saw Him.”
“Is that so? Why is he going all the way out there?” you ask.
“Beats me. I didn’t particularly want to find out either.”
“But you’re a follower of His?” you ask.
“Oh yes,” he assures you.
“So what’s He like?” you ask eagerly.
“Well, he’s something else, that’s for sure!”
“Yeah, but you’re His disciple, so is the way you are a lot like the way He is?”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t say that! We’re not all that much alike. I’m my own man, really.”
“But you’re His disciple?”
“Of course!”
Any thinking person would wonder how this dude could call himself a follower of Jesus if he isn’t actually following Jesus and if he is his own man and not really becoming like Jesus!

h.      Luke 9:23 He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself[1], and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

The Paradox

Mat 10:39 The one who has found his life will destroy it,
             but the one who has destroyed his life for the sake of me, he will find it!

ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν.

·         The verb tenses at the beginning of each phrase are the Greek Aorist tense,
      which some scholars interpret as past tense: “he who has found his life,”
      and others interpret as timeless: “he who finds,”
but either interpretation is in contrast to the future tense in the last half of each phrase that everybody agrees on: “he will lose… he will find.”

·         Here is a revelation of the future for us! If you were a stockbroker and you knew the future, you could clean up on the stock market, right? If you knew that, ten years from now, the price of gold will be ten times what it is now, you’d be buying all the gold you could. And if you knew that real estate values would steadily go down for the next century, you’d sell your houses and land now, even if it was at a loss, right?

·         So here’s the inside scoop from the Lord and Creator of life about the future consequences of two courses of action: Finding and Losing.

1.      Finding - Heuriskw

o       Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: to come upon, hit upon, to meet with… to find a thing sought… to fall in with… come or return to a place

o       “Find” in Matthew:

  1. Mat. 7:7-8 Losing your life only to find it is like the disciple we’ve already seen who orients his life around asking, seeking, and knocking for Jesus and then finding what he’s looking for: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
  2. Here’s another parallel: Matt.11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” Lose independ­ence; find peace!
  3. The one who loses his life will not only find it, he will be found
  4. But those who seek to satisfy themselves are like the demons that seek rest but cannot find it because they are in rebellion to God (Mat. 12:43)

o       Commentator William Hendriksen explains what “finding [your] life” means this way: “when the issue is between [Jesus] and what he considers his own interests, and he chooses the latter in order to find himself…”

o       Hendricksen goes on to compare this kind of self-finding person to a lake without an outlet. Lakes that merely take in water and have no streams running out of them become stagnant, the water gets dirtier and dirtier because the water evaporates out of the lake and leaves the junk behind to get more and more concentrated with junk. This is the same kind of person as the one who “loves father or mother or son or daughter more than” Jesus. (v.37)
The other course of action is…

2.      Losing - Apollumi

o       Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “to destroy, put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin, render useless, to kill.” As you can see, this Greek word carries more connotations of violence and permanence than our English word “lose.”

o       Apollumi in Matthew:

  1. Matt. 5:29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose/destroy one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell”
  2. Matt. 9:17 “Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined/destroyed…”
  3. Matt. 10:6  but rather go to the lost/ruined sheep of the house of Israel.
  4. Matt. 10:28 “…fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  5. Matt. 12:14  But the Pharisees went out and conspired  against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

o       Losing/destroying your life for Jesus’ sake is parallel to “confessing Jesus before men” in v.32. This is loving Jesus more than your own life and being willing to face martyrdom for declaring alignment with Christ.

o       In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul demonstrates this attitude of losing himself, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:4-11)

o       Later on in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus expounds on this point: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” (Matt. 16:25-27, Mark 8:35-38)

o       In Luke’s parallel account (17:32-33), Jesus adds an interesting command, “Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” What does Lot’s wife have to do with this principle of finding and losing? Remember that Lot and his wife lived in the wicked town of Sodom and were warned to leave before God destroyed the town with fire and brimstone. Lot was willing to lose his land and associations in Sodom when God said to lose it, but Lot’s wife had not really reconciled herself to cutting ties with Sodom, she wasn’t willing to lose it – so she looked back longingly at her town as it was being destroyed by God, and God destroyed her life by turning her into a pillar of salt. Strange but true. I don’t want any of you turning into pillars of salt, so “Remember Lot’s wife.” When God con­victs you that you need to lose something in your life for His sake, don’t keep hanging on to it!

o       John 12:25 “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”

·       Note however, that this does not include throwing away your life for no good reason. Jesus is not condoning suicide or anything like that. It is only a life offered “for my sake” (and, as Mark adds, “for the sake of the Gospel”) . When we give of ourselves or our life, it should be for the sake of Jesus and His righteousness:

  1. Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  2. Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” You can’t out-give God. What you give up for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel, He will generally let you enjoy more of it than you ever would have otherwise!

·         One of the greatest illustrations of this paradox of losing and finding is the life of Jim and Elisabeth Elliott. After Jim Elliot was found in the mid-20th Century speared to death by Amazon jungle tribesmen, the journal of his efforts to reach these tribesmen with the Gospel was published as a book under the title of, Through Gates of Splendor. Here is one unforgettable quote from that journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim gave his life, which he wouldn’t have been able to preserve forever anyway, and then his wife gave up her dreams to live among that very tribe as a widow and preach the Gospel that her husband had died trying to tell them, and as a result of these two people who gave their lives literally and figuratively, the Waodani tribe has largely been won to Christ! Jim got what he wanted, both joy in the presence of Christ and joy in seeing lost souls saved, for Jesus tells us that there is joy in heaven when the lost are saved.

·         Is it worth it to lose our life for the sake of Jesus? YES! And we see in the last three verses of this chapter an overview of the benefits!

The Benefits

Mat 10:40 ῾Ο δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με. 41  ὁ δεχόμενος προφήτην εἰς ὄνομα προφήτου μισθὸν προφήτου λήψεται, καὶ ὁ δεχόμενος δίκαιον εἰς ὄνομα δικαίου μισθὸν δικαίου λήψεται. 42 καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ποτίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ποτήριον ψυχροῦ μόνον εἰς ὄνομα μαθητοῦ, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ.


40 The one who is receiving y’all is receiving me,

and the one who is receiving me is receiving the one who commissioned me.

41 The one who receives a prophet in a prophet’s name will receive a prophet’s reward,

and the one who receives a righteous man in a righteous man’s name will receive a righteous man’s reward,

42 and who ever happens to provide drink to one of the little ones among these guys – a cold drink only, in a disciple’s name, I tell you truly, there’s no way he can destroy his reward.


There are two key terms in these last three verses: 1) “receive… in the name of”, and 2) “reward.” In these three verses, it is stated five times in a row that a certain kind of receiving is promised a reward! This must be very important to be repeated so many times!

  1. “Receive… In the name of a prophet/righteous man/disciple” These exact phrases are not used anywhere else in scripture[2], so we must think through it a little bit:
    1. The Greek word “dechomai” translated “receive” literally means to “grab and hold something with your hand” (Luke 22:17 “Jesus received the cup”),
    2. It is also used figuratively to mean “listening to and believing a spoken message” (Matt. 11:14 “if you are willing to receive it, John himself is the Elijah who was coming” NAW)
    3. “Receive” also means to “provide nourishment and nurture” (Matt. 18:5 “whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me”) – this is also applied to guests:
    4. We’ve seen earlier in v.14 what Jesus said to do if someone does not receive the disciples and allow them to use their home as a base for preaching about Jesus in their town – “leave and shake the dust off your feet.” Now in v.40ff, Jesus talks about what happens to those who do receive the disciples as guests.
    5. Zechariah 1:3-6 “…Turn to me, says the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn to you... And don’t be like your fathers, whom the prophets before charged, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord Almighty: Turn from your evil ways, and from your evil practices,” but they didn’t pay attention and they didn’t heed me… You however, must receive my words and my ordinances, all that I command by my Spirit to my servants the prophets...  (from LXX)
    6. Basically, receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet is this concept from Zechariah. It is listening to a man or woman of God and believing what they say because you believe that they are fulfilling the role of a prophet – that is, they are speaking God’s truth.
    7. If I were to walk into an exercise gym, I would probably be welcomed and received, but not because I am a righteous man, but rather because I am a potentially paying customer! Anybody in the world might receive another person as a customer, but Jesus is saying that when you receive someone in the name of a prophet or disciple or righteous man, you are welcoming them and listening to them and providing for their needs because they are loved by Jesus and they are faithfully talking about Jesus to others. That is the kind of “receiving” Jesus is talking about.
    8. The hospitality that Jesus is talking about extends to a welcoming act as simple as offering a cup of cold water to a thirsty Christian brother or sister. Back in those days they didn’t have air conditioning, so one of the best ways to cool off was to drink some spring water that was still cool from being underground!
    9. God’s reward for hospitality towards fellow Christians also extends to little, unimportant people. There is some debate as to who Jesus was referring to when He said “one of these little ones” – or more literally “one of the little ones of these.”

·         Some think this was just a term of endearment for His disciples,

·         others think it refers to the lesser-known disciples like Bartholomew and Thaddeus,

·         but I think Jesus was referring to the children of the disciples who may have been tagging along.

    1. As Hebrews 11:6 tells us, God “is a rewarder.” It is His nature to give gifts to those who identify with Him, and He will give rewards for any- and everything – even for showing hospitality to missionaries and their crying children who are strung-out from travelling with their parents, even for offering a drink of cold water.
    2. And God won’t lose track of what you should get, either. As Mathew Henry wrote, “The reward may be deferred, the full reward will be deferred until the resurrection of the just, nor shall there be any losers by the delay!”
  1. Reward[3]
    1. Abraham was a prophet, and Genesis 15:1-6 tells us of two rewards he received: 1) Fellowship with God Himself, and 2) Children who walked in fellowship with God: “…the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and I am your great reward.’ Abram said, ‘Master and Lord, what will you give me? whereas I am… without a child…’ And He brought him out and said to him, ‘Look up now to heaven, and count the stars… Thus shall your seed be.’ And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” (LXX)
    2. Later on, after God had straightened things out between Abraham and King Abimelek of Egypt, God told Abimelek, “…He is a prophet and he will pray for you…” (Gen 20:7). Abimelek showed hospitality to Abraham and then he received what might be called his “prophet’s reward:” instead of being cursed by God for messing with a prophet of God, he was instead blessed, and his people started having babies!

c.       In some places in the Bible, misthon is used in the sense of wages or paychecks to pay a laborer fairly for what he has done for you[4], but our reward in heaven is not some­thing we earn by good works on earth; it is a free gift from God given to us simply because He chose to love us. (Ephesians 2)

    1. This concept of the reward of totally satisfying fellowship with God in heaven was mentioned earlier by Jesus in the beatitudes: Matt. 5:11-12 “Y’all are being blessed whenever liars reproach you and hunt [you] down and speak every evil against you for my sake. Keep rejoicing and leaping for joy, because your reward is bountiful in heaven, for they hunted down the prophets before you in the same way.” (NAW)
    2. Now He’s saying that if you listen to and provide nourishment for godly men, you are exercising faith in God and obeying Him, and there is a great and glorious reward which you will find in eternity for trusting and obeying God.
    3. Hebrews 10:34-37 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence [your trust in Jesus to save you], which has a great reward (μισθαποδοσιαν). For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.


In these last three verses, I see four benefits in particular listed to losing your life for Christ & confessing that you are with Jesus:

Reward #1: Community with Christians
What happens when we “receive” a fellow believer into our home and feed them? We create com­mun­ity with that person, and they become a friend. “The fellowship of the saints” which we confess in the Apostle’s Creed is a true blessing. No Christian who practices hospitality can be lonely!

Reward #2: Favor with God
In v. 40, Jesus says that if someone listens to and shows hospitality toward one of the disciples, it counts as though they are honoring Jesus, and it counts as though they are honoring God the Father in heaven Himself! That cup of cold water offered to a little one – “even to the least of these my brothers,” as Jesus would say later, is given to Him. What is God’s attitude towards you if you are always learning from Godly men and helping them out? We can’t say God is indebted to you for anything, but it sure is gratifying to Him, and He is sure to take delight in you. And when you show up in front of the throne on judgment day, He will deliver his judgment with a beaming smile of approval on you because your relationship has already grown close.

Reward #3: Acceptance of your life-work on an equal par with superstars
Throughout the O.T. book of Leviticus there is a theme of acceptability before God. If a sacrifice was not perfect, it would not be received by God, and thus the supplicant would not be received before God (Lev. 19:7). This saying of Jesus teaches us that if you show this kind of kindness to a man of God, it will be acceptable; you will not be rejected, and what’s more, you will get the same reward he gets. If you could manage to deliver a cup of cold water to Billy Graham, you could get the same kind of reward in heaven that he will get! What a great equalizer of spiritual status! It doesn’t matter how unimportant you are on earth; if you have served a fellow-believer because you love God’s word, you’ll get just as good a reward as anybody else! Hurrah for the behind-the-scenes servants in our midst!

Reward #4: Eternal Life with God
The rewards that come from the hand of God in heaven will be worth whatever it costs in this life!

·         James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (cf. Rev 2:8-10), and – if that is not enough –

·         Revelation 21:7 “…he who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.”


[1] cf. Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age

[2] The closest I find to it is Heb 6:10 which speaks of showing love “in the name of [God]” through serving others. See also LXX of Prov 4:10.

[3] See word study on misthon in my sermon on Mat. 6:1-4 “How to Give so that you Get a Reward from God” (21 Aug 2011)

[4] Rom. 4:4, Matthew 20:8, Luke 10:7,1 Corinthians 9:17, 1 Timothy 5:18