What Jesus said about Titles

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:5-12, ESV)

In speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus talks about their desire for the praise of men and for differentiation between them and others. It is true that men love titles. They especially love titles that they feel bestow upon them prestige and honor beyond others. Therefore, men put forth great effort to receive such titles.

However, among the servants of Christ there are to be no such titles. There are no levels of Christianity, only descriptions of responsibilities. Unfortunately some crave titles, even while claiming to serve God, as a means of separating themselves from others. Some who have earned Ph.D.’s would rather that be known than their own first name. Some have tried to turn such terms as “shepherd,” “deacon,” or “minister” into titles of prestige instead of descriptions of service and responsibility. In the religious world around us, title is of great importance. Such titles as Father, Reverend, Pastor, and the like seek to lift those individuals up above everyone else. Such should not be so.

The Christian is the servant of Christ – no more, no less. Even the terms “brother” and “sister” were never intended to be titles, they are reminders of the relationship we have with one another in Christ. Paul considered himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (the term “apostle” meaning, “one sent” or “messenger”), not the Apostle Paul. There is a vast difference in the two declarations. One is a description, the other a title.

We must always remember who rules over us, it is God, not men. As men, we serve one another with humility and thanksgiving in our service to God. May we not seek after titles, earthly honors, or distinctions; but faithful service to God that brings to the world recognition of his grace, love, and mercy toward us.

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