“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12
There have been many times when I have heard people quote this to me as to why priest should not be called ‘father’. It is interesting to me that the title of ‘father’ is what is remembered and used with this text, not rabbi, nor teacher. I have never heard anyone say that we should not call someone teacher, who is in that role. Though, this text would be quotable and applicable just as it would be for the title ‘father’. When we want to use scripture, we can find ways to use it, though when we read it for insight and are still enough to actually read the larger text it somehow finds a way to use us.
This text is all about serving others. A teacher, a religious leader, a political leader, a military leader, a police officer or whomever is leading or assuming a position of authority needs to see the position as a responsibility and act of serving not as a way to gain power over others for one’s own status or gain. A leader using her or his office for monetary gain or as a way to dominate others is being abusive and moving out of the grace of God’s anointing for such a position.
Using scripture to justify a point already held is dangerous and helps lead us to assume things about God that might not be appreciated by God. Reading this passage today is a good reminder to me to pay attention more, and to be slower to think I understand what it is that is before me. The steadfast love of the Lord is new every morning, so let it be new in me with the newness of this new day.