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Greatness = genuine service, not fancy titles

November 16, 2022

Daily Scripture

Matthew 23:2-12

2 “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. 4 For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. 6 They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. 7 They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’

8 “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. 9 Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. 10 Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. 11 But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Jesus’ day (and still today), many leaders (even religious ones) wanted exalted, lofty titles. Scholar William Barclay wrote, “The Pharisees liked to be addressed as Rabbi and to be treated with the greatest respect. They even claimed…greater respect than that given to parents, for, they said, a man’s parents give him ordinary, physical life, but a man’s teacher gives him eternal life.” * Jesus said his Kingdom was not about high-status in position or title. Greatness lay in serving others selflessly.

  • Pharisees were political and social leaders as well as spiritual. Scholar N. T. Wright said, “Today’s equivalents… might be the leaders, elected or unelected… who rejoice in ‘celebrity’ status, make speeches about public values while running lucrative but shady businesses… use their position to gain influence for their families and friends, and allow their private interests secretly to determine public policy…. What matters is the huge and humbling principle of verses 11 and 12.” ** How easy or hard is it for you to fully accept Jesus’ clarity about greatness as service?
  • Does verse 9 mean it’s wrong to send a Father’s Day card, or otherwise honor your earthly father? No—Jesus often used a teaching style called “prophetic hyperbole,” overstating to make a point. Here he likely referred to men demanding the title of Elijah the great prophet (cf. 2 Kings 2:12) and other “fathers” of the faith. When, if ever, have you wished to make yourself feel more important by demanding your “rights” of role, status, or title?

Lord Jesus, keep purifying my motivations as I serve. May my meaning and sense of worth come more from you each day—until my service is about you, not me. Amen.

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Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Community Assistance Coordination Director in Resurrection's Congregational Care Ministry. She is married and loves spending time with her family, and she enjoys writing and photography.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 2 Chapters 11–28 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 287.

** Wright, N. T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 2 (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 98-99). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.