In Luke 14:26 (Douay-Rheims) we read:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

In Matthew 22:39 (Douay-Rheims) we read:

And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

My understanding is that Jesus did not hate his parents. He did not live like he taught. I have never been told to hate my parents or myself by a spiritual director. They told me the opposite.

In Matt 22:39 Jesus said that we should love our neighbours as thyself. But in Luke 14:26 Jesus says that you are supposed to hate yourself. This is confusing to me.

I have been told that according to St. John Paul II's Catholic Philosophy, the opposite of love is not hate but use.

How does the Catholic Church reconcile both verses?


2 Answers 2


The Biblical meaning of "hate"

In the Biblical era, the word "hate" (μισεω, miseo) has connotations seldom used today, see Abarim Publications's online Biblical Greek Dictionary entry on μισεω where there are more verses that use "hate" in those senses.

Consulting the standard lexicon Kittel & Friedrich's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Volume 4 (Λ to Ν, 1967), the word μισεω has an entry with section 5 titled "Hatred and Hating in the New Testament" where the entry's author analyzes the various nuances of μισεω in the whole NT (see concordance). The author wrote 8 sub-sections, dedicating the sense used in Luke 14:26 (along with parallel passages Matt 10:37 and Jn 12:25) as follows:

c. Hatred in Discipleship of Jesus. The requirement for discipleship in Lk. 14:26 (Mt. 10:37); Jn. 12:25 is striking: “Hatred of all we are under obligation to love, including our own souls, is the condition of fellowship with Jesus, of working together with Him.” 26 The reference is not to hate in the psychological sense, but to disowning, renunciation, rejection (καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἑσυτου̂), as in the Wisdom literature of the OT.27 Those who become disciples of Jesus must be committed exclusively to Him; they cannot be bound to anyone or anything else. The term “hate” demands the separation of the disciple, and the warning not to love anyone or anything more is the test. This abnegation is to be taken, not psychologically or fanatically, but pneumatically and christocentrically.

Thus, passage context is paramount to interpret a Bible verse. For Luke 14:26, the containing passage Luke 14:25-35 is frequently titled The Cost of Following Jesus. From the context it is clear that what needs to be "hated" is only the part of our family and our own life that forces us to separate from Jesus and the way of life that Jesus wants us to live (such as when our family members object to us converting to be Christian). In other words, when we are in a situation where we are forced to choose, choosing Jesus can be phrased as "hating" our family members, or "hating" the power of sin within ourselves (see Paul's struggle in Romans 7:14-25).

"Love" vs. "Hating"

"Loving ourselves" in Matt 22:39 includes "hating" the sinful parts of ourselves. In that way we give our soul and body a better environment to grow to be more like Jesus (a work of the Holy Spirit). My wife says it's like weeding. When weeding, we need to make sure to "hate" the weed to the core by also taking out the roots of the weed. I think that's what all Christians (not just the Catholic church) understand the meaning of "hate" in Luke 14:26.

"Love" vs. "Using"

You brought up a very good antithesis between "love" and "use" that Pope John Paul II elaborated in his book Love and Responsibility between "loving" someone for his/her own sake for their mere existence made in the image of God even though they can become a burden to you (which he called the "personalistic norm") versus "using", which he labelled as "utilitarianism" EVEN WHEN the other party doesn't mind. See the full treatment in Chapter 1, Part One ("Analysis of the Verb "to use") pages 3 to 28 of this edition where he discusses:

  • The person as the subject and object of action
  • The first meaning of the verb "to use"
  • Love as the opposite of "using"
  • The second meaning of the verb "to use"
  • Critique of utilitarianism
  • The commandment to love and the personalistic norm


The "love" and "using" antithesis should not be confused with the Biblical sense of "love" and "hate". But both senses ARE PART OF the multifaceted understanding of the Great Commandment that Jesus reminded his audience in Matt 22:39.

  • So the way people taught in those days was by using a non-philosophical language? I always find non-philosophical teachings hard to understand. Commented Apr 24 at 15:15
  • 1
    It's true that OT is mostly literary language, but NT is mostly everyday language. Both express theological truths to be analyzed philosophically, which is the duty of today's theologians and philosophers to translate from the language and the cultural context of the Bible to practical applications for today. In this case, I think the words "love" and "hate" are used in the common meaning of that time, so to get the meaning right we need to consult non-Biblical texts such as the famous TDNT. Commented Apr 24 at 16:04

"Hate", particularly in this context, doesn't mean what you think it means. What Christ is really saying in Luke 14:26 is that, to follow Him, one must not let the love of friends, family, or even their own life to stand in the way.

Compare also with Luke 9:62:

"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Or Matthew 10:37:

"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."

Or simply look at the context (Luke 14:33):

"Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

In all cases the same thought is being expressed; not that we should "anti-love" our family and friends, but that we must put Christ first... even if it means losing friends and family.

"I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For 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. 36And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36)

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