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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

BEWARE HOW WE USE EXALTED TITLES

Matt 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

In the seven verses that precede the lesson text, Jesus described, in great detail, certain religious leaders of the Jews, namely the scribes (lawyers) and the Pharisees. These Jews misinterpreted and made void God's law by the "traditions of elders." Through their dogmatic insistence, these traditions became as necessary to obey as the original Law of God given to the Jewish nation through Moses from Mount Sinai. Of these men Jesus said that they sit in Moses' seat - that is, they took it upon themselves, using human wisdom, to interpret the Mosaic Law. This they did, not only for themselves, but they also forcefully taught it to all other Jewish people under the authority of self-assumed titles, which they chose to give validity to their self-righteous teaching. Verse 7 concludes this lesson with Jesus describing these self-appointed religious leaders as coveters of greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

The title "Rabbi,"as we know it today, refers to a Jew that has been educated under Jewish law and formally authorized to assume the religious leadership of a congregation of Jews generally known as a synagogue. The root meaning of the title "Rabbi," when applied to an individual, is one that is "great," is the recognized "head," or one that is a "master" over others. During the time of Jesus' ministry on earth, and specifically at the time of this incident, the title of Rabbi was one of human honor and respect, and was personally assumed by "self-proclaimed teachers of the Law." Jesus openly condemned the practice of assuming titles of respect by these Jewish religious leaders, and by inference, condemns those that desire and use such titles today. To His own disciples, Jews in His audience, and even us today, Jesus strongly warns against the use of such titles that tend to hold the holiness of any man above that of others. He said be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ. There is to be only one Head or Master Teacher over the family of God, and that is Christ Jesus. His teaching, as well as the teaching of those He selected and authorized to interpret God's will through Him, is to be the only religious authority that is to be recognized in New Testament Christianity. Such titles are not to be coveted, desired, sought after, or appended to one's name in order to demonstrate superior knowledge of God's will. Jesus adds further that all ye are brethren, that is, on the same level, with no one having religious superiority over another.

However there is one exception to this commandment. New Testament scriptures authorize duly appointed and qualified elders of the church of Christ to assume and exercise authority over the congregation that chose them to lead their membership, and that authority is restricted only to that particular body of Christ. But even those that hold the title of elder are told not to lord over their flock, but to become the lowest of servants as they oversee the work of the church. We know this by the next statement of our Savior when He said that he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. What a profound spiritual tenet of God's doctrine. To ascend to the highest and most favorable place of honor in the sight of God, one must surrender self-glorification and become the most submissive servant possible to all mankind, completely yielding to the will of God, our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Christ Jesus.

And this is the reason given by Jesus: whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Humility is the avenue over which one must travel in order to become a servant to all, a faithful member of the body of Christ, and an obedient child of God. In New Testament Christianity, these scriptures emphatically tell us that we are never to be addressed by the titles of Rabbi, Master, or Father. Any title other that brother, sister, or fellow Christian, regardless of one's class or status in life, are not to be attached to one's name. The religious world today is filled with various honorary titles that signify superiority, preeminent authority, or a higher level of respect. Not only is the title Father used extensively by some religious bodies, but also Reverend, Right Reverend, Lord Bishop, etc., are used to elevate and distinguish religious leaders from the common membership over whom they rule. Here, Jesus tells us that the use of such titles is a sinful violation of God's will. Beware how we use exalted titles.