The context for this verse is the end-times prophesy from Jesus in Matthew 24. The disciples commented on the majestic temple complex with its great buildings. Jesus dryly remarks that not one of its big stones will be left on another; it will all be thrown down. He then launches into a fuller description of the destruction and its surrounding events. It is in this discourse that we find our verse.
Jesus tells people that they should flee when they see ‘standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation”, spoken of through the prophet Daniel’ (Matthew 24:15). If you happen to be out in a field, Jesus tells you to not go back to get your clothes. Presumably, if you went back, the evil forces that represent the abomination might get to you, and you might share in its destruction and darkness.
The story of Lot’s wife comes to mind. When Lot and his family were told to flee Sodom, they were specifically told not to look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed, looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19).
The word for clothes is ‘himation’, which is the cloak, the outer garment people wore over their undergarments. It was considered a valuable item since Jesus explained that people who sued you would take it(Matthew 5:40). So the lesson for disciples is to not get attached to earthly possessions, so that they are not tempted to go back and get them, when God wants them to flee. If you consider yourself a disciple, then this lesson is also for you.
What is the main characteristic of disciples? They follow Jesus, even when it means leaving all other things behind. This is how Jesus called His disciples:
Matthew 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
They left their jobs and homes and families, and followed Jesus. And Jesus promised that they would get rewarded for it:
Matthew 19:27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
The question to you is: are you a disciple? Would you have followed, or would you have been too attached to your stuff (and your family!) and stayed? When the end-times come, will you flee, or will you go back and get your stuff?