Tuesday, March 23

Titles

Scripture: Deuteronomy 9-10, Matthew 23

Matthew 23:5–12 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Observation

Jesus addresses the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day.  In particular, He points out that they are concerned for appearances: “everything they do is done for people to see.”  They love titles and being greeted with respect. 

In another passage (Matthew 20:24-28) where Jesus taught on greatness, He says that the Gentiles exercise authority and lord it over people, but “not so with you.”  Instead, the greatest will be the servant of all.

Jesus repeats that thought here.  The religious leaders love titles—not so among you.  Instead of wanting to be called rabbi or father or instructor, Jesus argues for a radical egalitarianism: “You are all brothers…the greatest among you will be your servant.”  

This doesn’t mean that titles are never to be used.  The apostles were called apostles; elders/pastors/deacons were called by those names.  Titles are unavoidable to some degree.  But it means that we aren’t concerned with the title or the respect that goes with it; we aren’t concerned with image management and what others think of us.  Instead, we are focused on serving others, not being served.  

Titles are often used to separate us from others, set us above others, differentiate us from others.  But Jesus challenges that notion, and calls us all to be brothers and sisters under our Father, and to serve rather be served.  Don’t be obsessed with titles.

Application

Give up image management and be the servant of all.  Don’t worry about being respected—the greatest is the servant of all, so just serve.  Don’t worry about titles—the most important title you bear is that you are the beloved son or daughter of God.  James, the brother of Jesus, was content to introduce himself as the servant of God and the Lord Jesus (James 1:1).  That should be enough for me too.

Prayer: Lord, help me to give up all pretension, all demands for recognition, and simply be a servant.