Jesus’ Warnings About the Pharisees: Topic #3
All week, we’ve looked at Matthew 23.
In this passage, Jesus explains why the people should be cautious when dealing with the Pharisees. In verse 7, Jesus challenges the people to reject the Pharisees titles. How their ears would be tickled when people used these titles in public settings.
For context, at this time, the people were not allowed to call the Pharisees by their given names. Instead, they must use names like Rabbi, Father, and Instructor (direct translation is more like the English word, Master).
Jesus warns of the Pharisees’ titles.
“…love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.” (Matt. 23:7-10)
These Titles Remain
These titles have continued in Orthodox Judaism. Interesting enough, the title of Father has also found its way into many facets of Christianity. So I’d like to spend a bit of time on this title in particular.
When we hear Jesus say “...do not call anyone on earth ‘father,…” (23:9)
If we took Jesus words directly, I could not call my dad Father, nor could my boys call me Father. And Scriptural evidence written after Matthew Gospel would indicate a deeper and more positional meaning.
New Testament Evidence
As a couple of examples, we have physical fathers mentioned in Hebrews 12:
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” (Heb. 12:9)
Then in 1 Corinthians 4, we read about spiritual fathers:
“Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:15)
As always, Jesus is more concerned with the heart condition. This is why most scholars believe that in these verses, Jesus is more concerned with the meaning behind the title, than the actual title.
My boys can call me Father, as long as I’m pointing them towards our true Father. I can call my Mentor, Mentor because he points me toward our true Mentor. I should only be called Pastor (shepherd), as long as I’m pointing people to our true shepherd.
Title-Trends In the Church
Am I the only one who sees a title-trend in the church? In recent years, I believe education is an area where titles have become a stumbling block for the church. Having many peers in their 20s and 30s, I hear a lot about their education.
The way we speak of our education seems very similar to the Pharisees love for titles.
In reality, regardless of having a bachelors, masters, doctorate or a certain certification in a particular area; we’re still sinners. We have good days and bad days.
This generational trend teaches us to wave our pieces of paper around and value them more than character and humility. It would be tragic if spiritual gifts took a back seat to what’s hanging on our walls.
What Can We learn?
What’s the practical take-aways? Well, Jesus sums it up best in verses 11 and 12:
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (23:11-12)
Anyone of us has the potential to become Pharisaic. We have everything it takes. All the pride, selfishness and arrogance. But we can battle the temptation to make ourselves greater than we are.
Humility Is The Key
If we want to prevent ourselves from becoming modern-day Pharisees, we must embrace humility in every aspect of our lives. But how?
I’d like us offer us three principles to take with us this week; that stem from what Jesus addressed in the Pharisees.
- Our Positions: May we be people who follow Scripture and practice what we preach.
- Our Behaviours: May we be people who lighten the loads of others and give them honour.
- Our Titles: May we be people who greet others with respect and use our titles to point others to Christ.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
In your opinion, where in our culture do pride and titles go hand in hand?