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.
In verses 8 through12, Jesus admonished His disciples to not imitate the ministry course of religious leaders in Israel. They were to operate on an entirely different standard for ministry.
But you [emphatic], do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.
The emphatic “you” indicates that Jesus expected the disciples to take leadership in future ministry. In doing this, brother relationship, and not the attitude of spiritual superiority, is the right attitude. Jesus alone has ultimate authority and is worthy of ultimate deference.
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
The context indicates that Jesus used the word “father” here in the sense of “teacher” or someone with religious authority. The issue here is religious title. Jesus did not use the term for our physical “father.”
And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
The word for “teachers” here is the only use in the New Testament of this particular Greek word. The idea is master, guide, or tutor. Religious titles have a tendency to carry pride and pretense. Religious ostentation distorts mission. The Messiah (“Christ”) is to own ultimate deference.
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
True greatness serves others. Many of us will be shocked to find those we deemed great on earth will serve some we deem lowly.
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
God will humble those who exude pride in this life with humility in the hereafter.
Self-exaltation is the opposite of God’s way of doing ministry.
It is not wise for Christian leaders to use pretentious titles. Yet on the other hand the church is to “highly esteem” church leadership (1 Th 5:12-13). God sponsors the idea of line of authority, but not authority for its own sake. Public adulation and true service are polar opposites.