What did Jesus Christ mean when He said, "let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22)? Jesus was teaching that it is more important to be concerned with doing God's Work and salvation than any other physical matter (Matt. 6:33).
The context of Christ's statement reveals that He offered this man a special opportunity to participate in His ministry and teach the way which ultimately leads to ETERNAL life. When this man said that he must first go and bury his father, Christ told him to let the dead (spiritually dead) bury their dead. Was Christ denying this man an opportunity to attend his father's funeral? Obviously not! After all, a funeral only takes a few hours and Christ continually gave example after example showing how Christians are to have compassion and show the proper respect for others. He was even present at funerals during His ministry, where He raised the deceased to life again (John 11:17-44; Luke 7:11-16).
Why, then, did Christ answer this man in such a manner? He realized what the man said was nothing more than an EXCUSE. The young man's father was, most probably, an elderly man still living, but about to die. This man, realizing his father's condition, told Christ, in effect, that he did not want to get involved in God's Work until after his father was dead and buried. This indicates that he placed undue emphasis on family ties and other mundane, worldly matters pertaining to this physical life. He could have found someone to fulfill his responsibility towards his father if he had wanted to. That is why Christ told him to let the spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1 — those not being called now) be concerned with such physical matters.
The lesson we are to learn from this account is that no one should allow himself to be hindered by physical circumstances (the cares of this world) from having a part in God's Work once he has been called.