Matthew 23:8-12 NRSVue
8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Anyone who has worked in a school knows that a teacher's authority is earned, not given by the system. The best teacher, father, or instructor is one who does not rely on his or her position, one who does not demand respect, but earns it through humble service and devotion. Remember Addison's line: /'Tis not in mortals to command success, but we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it./
Lord, I have only to see the history of the church to realise how easily these words are forgotten. Churchmen have exalted themselves, looked for titles and exercised leadership by domination rather than service. I need to come back to the memory of you washing your disciples' feet. Blessed are those who clean the toilets, put out the garbage, and care for the old and incontinent. We are never as close to God as when we are serving.
Here Jesus contrasts titles of honour with the real status of the disciple. Rabbi, father, teacher were all titles of honour and invoked some power over people. The power and the influence of the disciple comes from our insertion with Jesus, that he is Rabbi, Father and Teacher. We have nothing that is our own, and in that is the humble greatness of the disciple. Prayer may give an awareness of where we seek our status – from people who are honoured and looked up to in society, or church or job, rather than from our friendship with Jesus. Prayer is often an asking to be like Jesus in word, attitude and deed*.*