MATTHEW 23:8-11 NLT 8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant.
These verses can seem perplexing. Yet they contain some important truths.
The first is that in the Kingdom of God we are all siblings — all on the same level.
(Jesus did not specifically address gender in this passage, but it fits in perfectly. Any attempt to classify women as inferior or second-class in any way goes against the spirit of what Jesus said in this passage. And Galatians 3:28 certainly backs up this idea.)
Jesus is not telling us it is wrong to acknowledge we have an earthly parent called a father. For the Bible tells us to honor our father and mother. He must be referring to the custom of calling someone “Father” as a term of great respect.
For example, there are people who are called “the father of modern medicine” or “the father of jazz music.” The word “father” used in this way means someone who was the originator, the one who started it all — the leader of a movement.
Although it is not wrong to honor someone because of their achievements, we should not consider humans the originators of everything. And we are not to set some people up on a pedestal and follow them instead of God.
It is not wrong to honor people, but it is wrong to honor people above God.
No one should be allowed to take the place of honor and respect that belongs to God alone. He is the One who originated all things. He is the One who deserves our utmost honor, respect, and obedience. God is our Leader!
And instead of operating like the world and setting up a hierarchy we are to operate as co-equals. (This is not to say there should not be positions of authority and leadership. But all should remember that being in those positions is a matter of responsibility, not a matter of being better than others.)
All human beings are on the same level. God loves us all. One person is not more important or valuable than any other person.
The human tendency is to try and distinguish ourselves from others. We try to elevate ourselves so others will look up to us and make us feel good about ourselves. Jesus is telling us we must not operate this way.
We should not need a title to make us feel valuable when God has already established our value by the price He paid to redeem us. Being a child of God is the highest position imaginable. No human title can begin to compare with that.
All special titles and human recognition are ultimately worthless anyway. They may have some value here on earth. But only God, the ultimate Judge, truly matters. What others think of us matters little.
Human organizations always exalt some people while minimizing others. “These are the important people. These other people are not very important.” But God’s people are not supposed to operate this way.
Finally, Jesus tells a great truth — which many have not yet understood. The greatest person is the one who serves others the most. This is not just a short-term idea, valid only in this life on earth. This is the way it will be in God’s Kingdom for eternity. Those who serve others the most are the greatest.
In the Kingdom of God status is not measured by a title or an office or a following (how many fans or friends you may have). Instead greatness is determined solely by how much you help others.
God helps everyone all the time. That makes Him the greatest. The more we help others, the greater it makes us. So don’t worry about a title or an office — just help people.