“Not everyone can accept this instruction – except those to whom it has been given. Because there are some celibates who were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some celibates who were castrated by men; and there are some celibates who made themselves celibate for the sake of the sanctuary of the spiritual realm. He who able to accept this, let him accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12 LG)
Is this about instruction or word?Note first that this translation is being derived from the Lost Gospels of Jesus rather than the NIV. This clarifies the translation somewhat. For example, the NIV says, "Not everyone can accept this word". What "word" are they referring to? A particular word? Or Jesus' entire philosophy?
In those translations, "word" is being translated from the Greek word λόγος (logos). This is not the appropriate translation, as λόγος can mean a teaching or doctrine, but also means, according to the lexicon, "decree, mandate or order," or "a continuous speaking discourse - instruction."
Here, "instruction" would be the more appropriate translation, because Jesus is referring to a particular instruction he had given about marriage and divorce.
What does 'to whom it is given' mean?This follows this statement placed by his disciples:
“If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)Jesus is admitting that this teaching about remarrying being equivalent to committing adultery will be difficult for many people to follow. But he is also stating that he meant this instruction specifically for those whom he was speaking with. Who was he speaking with?
He was speaking with some Pharisees that were challenging him regarding Moses' teaching about divorce. And they came to "test him" according to Matthew 19:3.
Jesus is clarifying that the instruction was intended to "those it has been given.”
This means Jesus was directing his instructions specifically to those who were seeing themselves in the position of teachers, representing Moses. He was also instructing his students and disciples.
These instructions were different than those Jesus gave to a general audience. Jesus often utilized parables when he spoke to general audiences. And he spoke of the Supreme Being in a more general manner.
What are eunuchs?The NIV and other versions have translated the Greek word εὐνοῦχος (eunouchos) to eunuchs. But what are eunuchs?
The Greek word εὐνοῦχος can mean someone who as been become emasculated - their genitals were removed. But this also means a person who is impotent and cannot have children, or someone who simply doesn't marry, or otherwise doesn't have sex.
In other words, Jesus is referring to someone who maintains a lifestyle of celibacy. Thus, "celibate" is a more appropriate translation of what Jesus is referring to - someone who makes the choice a celibate lifestyle.
This means that while impotence was one reason a person might not have a family - another related to a devotional decision: Dedicating one's life to the service of God.
What does he mean by 'he who able to accept this'?Jesus is offering leeway in this discussion of marriage. He is suggesting that we have some flexibility in terms of whether we want to marry or stay single.
We also see here by default and by the previous statement that indicated a person should not whimsically divorce that Jesus did not teach that everyone must be celibate.
Otherwise, how would the population continue? How would people have a chance to raise children and steer them towards coming to know the Supreme Being if everyone was celibate?
Didn't Jesus teach the importance of family?What Jesus' statement also conveys is that he did not teach that the family was all-important as many teachers of some sectarian institutions teach. These teachers sentimentally proclaim the importance of family, yet Jesus specifically taught the importance of dedicating one's life to the Supreme Being - whether having a family or not:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)Marriage and family life can become extremely complex. There are lots of logistics to be attentive to for a father or mother. This requires a focus on the physical issues of children and their protection. This can distract a person from their focus upon their devotion to God.
Family life can also encourage misidentification with the physical body. These physical bodies are temporary. At the time of death, each of us spirit-persons will leave this physical body and all the body's family behind.
Then again, if one can share the worship of God with their family members, family life can be used as a service to the Supreme Being.
In other words, we can utilize our talents and strengths, whether as a parent or a single person, towards loving, serving and pleasing God. These are practical teachings of Jesus.