Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Service is Supreme

Matthew 23:1-12 tells us the following:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you — but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 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. (ESV)

In the past I've held the titles of both "missionary" and "pastor." While well-intentioned, titles of this sort create an artificial caste system within the church. They divide people into groups of "who is qualified" and "who is not." Instead of equality in Christ, special names within the church bring man-made hierarchies.

For this reason, Jesus in the above passage tells us not to use titles. Christ is specifically denouncing the practices of the Pharisees. However, his commands are clearly statements to those who would follow him. We see in these verses that only one person deserves titles: God himself.

Instead of titles, our goal should be service to one another. The greatest in God's kingdom seek no titles but instead serve the body and broader community. It is these who "will be exalted."

This passage informs how we should think of the biblical term "elder." If elder is an office or title to hold, then this passage is difficult to understand. However, if elder is simply a recognition of godly behavior and attitudes on the part of older men in the church, then it makes sense.

Christ permits no titles. They give no benefit and only bring harm to his church.

Instead, Jesus is looking for servants. Let's be that.


Arthur Sido said...

I am probably not called or qualified to be a "pastor" but I certainly am called and qualified to be a servant and that is good enough for me!

Eric said...


Amen. We're all qualified in Christ.