Text: Matthew 23:1-12
For growth in both skill and love in discipleship
For those in authority in the church
“YOU ARE ALL BRETHREN.” This section of Matthew is challenging, because it contains at first glance two contradictory ideas: pay attention to and learn from those in authority, yet do not put energy into the honorifics of authority.
It might be better to get at our Lord’s wisdom by backing into it. The ancient world was an incredibly hierarchical one, with great emphasis on every person knowing his or her place and staying in it. I invite you to imagine middle school, but with more titles! Within the many religious orders and groups that existed there would be a wide range of ranks and sub-ranks. Ideally, these ranks existed to help the participants or members grow and become more adept themselves, but the ranking often meant that the “plebe,” the rookie, would serve so that the person higher in rank would benefit from his or her service.
Jesus redirects this cultural expectation so his followers might remember that everyone has the same purpose: to serve God, following the example of his Messiah, who came not to be served but to serve. Paul captures this in his explanation to the Ephesians: apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers are given to help others grow as followers of the one Lord and as ones who serves like he does. Titles like rabbi, or father or pastor or elder are not wrong in or of themselves, but they must be used carefully so that they don’t encourage “sheep-fleecing.”
So, when your teacher in the Lord gives instruction, follow that instruction, but watch to make sure that the teacher also lives by the same instruction instead of giving heavy burdens with no interest in lending a hand to lift them.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks