“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’ 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. 9 And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:1-12 NET2.
Sometimes the question is asked, “Should we call our parents “Mother” or “Father?” My suggestion is simple, look closely at the context of Jesus’ statement before saying, “No, we should not.”
I have not thought much about this except in the context of how we may be in danger of assigning more respect to pastors and professors or even the Catholic Church as they have layers of authority with titles attached. And there are the titles given to those who have earned doctorate degrees and I now wonder why not refer to all of us who have earned Master degrees, “Master?” The list can go on and on, too.
However, I believe we must think about the context of Jesus’ life when rabbinical schools allowed students to refer to their teachers as ‘Rabbi.’ With this in mind Jesus may be directing His attention to these titles of respect. What we do know is Jesus did not want His closest Followers to receive or seek rewards, but to be nothing more than His humble servants.
Some suggest that Jesus’ statement has nothing to do with how we may address our parents, but only a word concerning false honor toward those who are honored as teachers. Most likely He is directing His message to His Church NOT to place professors, pastors and others on pedestals rising above the people they serve.
The question then comes to mind, “What about the powerful television preachers who have made names for themselves by placing their names on study Bibles and are honored far above what their status should be?” However, I think His intention is most likely relative to the Church rather than absolute, calling us not to raise the status of spiritual leaders above the respect we must be reserving for God the Father.
We often refer to Paul and others as ‘Apostle’ and we know that he addresses Believers as Saints, Brothers and Sisters, Beloved, et al. Paul never sought the title ‘father,’ although states he had ‘fathered’ new believers in the gospel. The Apostle acknowledged Timothy as his spiritual son, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to correct you as my dear children. For though you may have 10,000 guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I encourage you, then, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason, I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not only the talk of these arrogant people, but also their power. For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Corinthians 4:14-21.
With all of this in mind I believe we must be careful in how we do honor our spiritual leaders and be aware of what we have done by placing their names on Bibles and on the signs of our churches. Just a thought.
Jesus is Lord.