Matthew 23:1–12 (NKJV, also seen in Mark 12:38–40; Luke 20:45–47)
23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus here addresses the hypocrisy of some of the Pharisees. Generally, the Pharisees were a devout and respected group of Jews that served passionately, especially in areas of the law. They even had writings and teachings that condemned hypocrisy. However, some of the Pharisees did not heed their own teachings. These are the ones that Jesus addresses here. He begins with support for the role of the Pharisees as teachers and leaders. He quickly, though, turns to and indictment of hypocrisy. They tell others how to live holy, but then look for accolades and respect through place and title. Jesus then gives His disciples instructions to not look for titles, but to live as a servant to Jesus, the one true Teacher.
What you strive for in this regard will not be achieved. Want status? You will be humbled. Strive to live humbly? You will be exalted. Run counter to the norms of the day when they contradict the Word and teachings of Jesus. Live as a servant, not a boss. Then, God can and will lift you up to a place of respect that is earned and God-given. That is the only respect that should matter. Don’t demand respect. Let you life and actions command respect, through humility.
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