Focal passage: Matthew
I tell my congregation to
call me “Don” or “Pastor Don.” When we begin Sunday morning worship services I
don’t usually have a place to sit because the choir and special announcers have
all the seats on the platform. I sit on a front pew, a vacant seat in the
choir, or sometimes on the floor of the platform. I wear an “old fashioned
suit,” instead of a robe. No phylacteries either. I try to act humble since it
is a Christian virtue, but I’ll confess, I feel good when someone comes to me and says, “I’m going to call you
Dr. Gordon because you have an earned doctorate and you should be recognized
Matthew 23:1-12 is an indictment
on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but with a few word
changes it could be read to ministers in any age, from any denomination.
It’s the opening prelude to
an avalanche of “woes” spewed out against these hypocritical religious leaders.
These leaders have adopted the role of authoritative interpreter of religious
teaching which commoners must accept.
They teach about love,
kindness, and humility but act out of self-interest, callousness, and pride (v.
They call for great
sacrifice from their constituents, but live in ease and luxury (v. 4).
They are quick to get in
front of a camera so they can cash in on the cult of celebrity. The clothes
they wear and the words they speak are chosen with calculation to enhance their
image and impression of super piety (v. 5).
They love sitting at the
head table at banquets and in the tallest seat in the sanctuary (v. 6). When
they go downtown for lunch they love it when the other customers call them
“Doctor” or “Reverend” and whisper to each other about how extraordinary their
leadership is (v. 7).
After this litany of
embarrassing exposures, Jesus turns to his disciples and teaches them a
different, more humble way to live.
Don’t let anyone call you
rabbi, father or teacher. There’s only one master and you are to be like
brothers. There is only one father in heaven, so don’t pretend to be God.
Only Christ is the teacher,
so go by another name. What name are we to use? Servant! Whoever wants to be
great will become a servant, someone willing to make the community, church, and
world a better place with no thought for recognition.
Humility is not the same
thing as obscurity. It’s grounded in a lifestyle of servanthood — out front or
in the background — that cares more for God and others than it does for its own