When Jesus sends the twelve out in Matthew 10, he gives them instructions for what to do when they enter a city that include finding "worthy" citizens there.

Matthew 10:11-13 (NASB)
11  And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12  As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13  If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.

Are the disciples in any other passages given any descriptions of what would qualify someone to be "worthy"? Was there a special method in which they were to "inquire"? How do we know what Jesus' intention was in giving this instruction?

  • 1
    Please review the way I edited this question so that you have a better idea what our expectations are. You didn't even include a question body in your original. I have tried to write a suitable one for you, but we will expect some investment on your part to develop your own questions in the future. We know this isn't easy, but asking questions here is expected to take some work to do well.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 13:20
  • @JLB-This is a good question; following with Caleb, if you could 'edit' your last paragraph(unless Caleb did it for you) it would give a better focus. An example might be,"What constitutes a worthy person, based on this passage?"
    – Tau
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


There were two main qualifications, one is primarily cultural, and one is really universal.

  1. A host family (or person) would need to be hospitable. Abraham, Lot, and others throughout the Old Testament were "lovers of strangers" (to use an anachronistic expression derived from the Greek word for hospitality). In the ANE, hospitality and being a good host were more highly valued than they are today, at least in the minority world. Today we may say "Make yourself at home," but we don't really mean it. In Jesus' day, a servant would wash a guest's feet, and the host(s) would see to it that their guests were fed well and made to feel comfortable. They would be invited to stay the night and be sent on their way the next day with plenty of snacks for their journey (see Genesis chapter 18:1-8; 19:1-8, especially the phrase ". . . they have come under the shelter of my roof"; in other words, they are my guests, and I am responsible for them, even for their safety).

  2. A host family would need to be amenable, amenable to the teaching of Jesus. Their openness may have been instigated by curiosity or by a sincere desire to learn more deeply about what Jesus and His message were all about. As a contrast, take the townsfolk in Luke 8, who had witnessed Jesus' healing of a demon-possessed man:

    "Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left" (v.37).

    Unlike the people in the region of the Gerasenes who in effect said to Jesus, "Here's your hat. What's the hurry?", the "worthy" families who welcomed Jesus' disciples into their homes evidently wanted to hear more about this unusual prophet and teacher whom they may have already heard in person or had heard about through "word of mouth" advertising.

"Unworthy" homes, on the other hand, would be neither hospitable nor amenable to Jesus' disciples or Jesus' message. These hosts might invite the disciples in, but upon finding out what Jesus was really about and consequently taking umbrage at His message, they quickly ceased being amenable! As with homes as well as with towns, if the disciples' reception was less than cordial, Jesus instructed them to wipe the dust off their sandals as they left either the house or the city (or town or village). This act, practiced by Jews in Jesus' day who upon returning home from a journey through pagan lands, was symbolic of (to mix metaphors) washing their hands of those Gentile dogs.

Interestingly, Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount instructed His followers:

"'Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they [the swine] will trample them under their feet, and [the dogs will] turn and tear you to pieces'" (Matthew 7:6).

The message of the Kingdom of Heaven is the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46). To "throw it" before people who despise its value is, well, unwise, not to mention a waste of time, talent, blood, sweat, and tears. In other words, with an "unworthy" audience, Jesus is telling His disciples--whether in the first century AD or the twenty-first century AD--they are best to move on.


The beloved Apostle John in his third letter commends Gaius for acting faithfully in the way he treated itinerant teachers, evangelists, and church planters, whom John called "strangers" (v.5). Gaius was what you'd call a settler. These travelling servants of Christ, on the other hand, were pioneers. (Thanks to Chuck Swindoll for these two terms!). Gaius and the church of which he was a part supported these travelling preachers financially and by opening their homes to them until their work there was done.

John's expression "send them on their way" meant, in part, that the local church provided these servants of the Name with travelling expenses and perhaps even clothing, food items, other practical items, and perhaps even a love offering for the next church on their itinerary!

Diotrophes, on the other hand, put the kibosh on helping these travelling missionaries, and he even kicked out of the church those who wanted to show hospitality to these strangers. (Remember, a hospitable person is a "lover of strangers.") John had some strong words of rebuke for Diotrophes, of whom he says "loves to be first among [the travelling missionaries]" (vv.8,9).

All this to underscore the importance of hospitality in the life of any local church. As the writer to the Hebrews said,

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2 KJV).


The Greek adjective here is ἄξιος, which has two meanings in the Christian New Testament:

(a) It means to be deserving. So the slave was "deserving" of a flogging (Lu 12:48); the prodigal son was not "deserving" to be called the son of his father (Lk 15:19); John the Baptist was not "deserving" to untie the sandals of Jesus (Jn 1:27); the Centurion in Capernaum was "deserving" to have his servant healed by Jesus (Lk 7:4); the thief on the cross acknowledged that he was "deserving" of death (Lk 23:41); etc.


(b) It means "qualified," which is the direct complement of repentance. That is, when one repents, they become "qualified" for blessing from the Lord; thus not qualified = not worthy. In this context, qualification for blessing was the change of mind (repentance) of turning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, which was the message of "good news" according to Luke 4:17-19. This conversion (change of mind) made one qualified for righteousness and subsequent eternal life. That is, the disciples preached that The Prophet predicted by Moses (John 6:14, John 7:40, Acts 3:21-23, and Acts 7:37-38), who was Jesus, had arrived to save and lead Israel through the New Covenant, by which sins were forgiven without resorting to animal sacrifices (Jer 31:34, Jer 33:8 and Ez 36:25). The disciples of Jesus therefore looked for those who were willing to repent and therefore become qualified or eligible ("worthy") of this wonderful good news. In this regard and along these lines, the examples of repentance to become "qualified" (worthy) of salvation therefore include the passage in question in addition to Matt 3:8; Lk 3:8; Ac 13:46; and Ac 26:20.

Finally, and very interestingly, Revelation 3:3-4 seems to be the only New Testament passage to capture the meaning of both (a) and (b), above. In this passage, the believers in Sardis are both "qualified" (repentant) and worthy ("deserving") of special recognition from the Lord. This passage is very providential in that the meaning of both (a) and (b) are in view.

  • 1
    the issue is that your definition doesn't come from the Bible. The meaning of the word predates the writing of it in this text - it meant something in the Greek language in first century Judea. I can find no scholarship stating the word ἄξιος means repentance, it simply wasn't used that way in the Greek language. If you can find a reliable lexicon that makes this claim or another early document that clearly uses the word to mean this, I'd be more inclined to listen.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 17:11
  • 2
    As it stands, it is an unsupported assertion that doesn't show its work (and I suspect based on your previous comment that it is an original idea to you). Now if you wanted to make an argument that the author is claiming they are 'worthy of receiving a blessing', which you theologically understand the blessing to be as 'being saved', that is fine and easily defended by your position. But trying to claim that the lexical meaning of the word ἄξιος is 'repentance' is ridiculous (Greek has a word for that, μετἀνοια). Also, I agree with (a), but it also should cite a Greek-English lexicon.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 17:12
  • 1
    @Daи - thank you for the tone and content of your last comment (+1), which provide more information than your first comment, which was misunderstood as sarcasm. Based on your last comment, I have gone ahead and made edits to my original posting addressing your questions and concerns.
    – Joseph
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 11:24
  • communication is hard! And I apologize for jumping straight to 'fabrication' which wasn't a very constructive way to begin a dialogue. I've removed the post notice and my down vote. This still doesn't quite meet my criteria for an upvote (citing a reliable lexicon for assertions about the meaning of Greek words), but it no longer is deserving of a downvote, either.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 16:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.