Sunday favorites

Matthew 23:9-13

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.

‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

  • WingedBeast

    This one doesn’t strike me as remarkably worth quoting.  It seems to say that nobody except Jesus and God personally can get any accolades.

    “Call no one your father on Earth.”  Maybe context provides the conditional phrase on that, but my father actually raised me, taught me right from wrong, and earned the title.  I’ve also had some very good teachers and instructors who have earned those titles that, unless I was severely misinformed, were not, themselves, God.

    I’m all for uplifting servants as the only people worth serving, but there are some points where people deserve the titles coming from their actions and the roles they take on.

    And, I’m curious about woe being onto scribes, of all people.  Again, maybe context provides something I’m missing, but that just sounds like an offense taken at people who read and write for a living.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    It’s a truly egalitarian piece. No one lords over another, but, at least in Christianity, we are compelled to note that there is only one King (forgive the gender), all others are at an equal footing.

  • Anonymous

    Father/Papa/Pope is perhaps not an intended extension of one being a mere overseer or bishop of a town or city. 

  • WingedBeast

    I’m going to have to disagree, here, that it’s egalitarian.  It seems much less to put people on equal footing as it is to take away options one might have to distinguish between peoples.

    Nobody can be father or instructor, no matter what they do.  Only God/Messiah can be thought of in terms of title of distinction.  That doesn’t strike me as putting people on equal ground so much as cutting their leggs out from under them to keep them from raising from said ground.

    Perhaps it’s not best that one be reading 1984 whilst also getting a glimpse at this passage, so that may be coloring my interpretation.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    The Pharisees and the scribes were using their positions as learned and pious men (and exclusively men, of course) to lord over the Jews. That’s the context here. They were to be addressed with labels and earning elite status. Jesus was introducing a new manner of relationships and dissing the elite few for oppressing those under them.

  • Edo

    Yeah, Orwell’s coloring your reading here. This is Jesus in Jerusalem (the day after scourging the Temple, immediately after defending himself before the Sadducees and Pharisees), and he’s saying this to crowds after prefacing it with: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do *not* do it as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”

    He is cutting legs out from people, but it’s not just anyone’s legs.

  • WingedBeast

    Yet, I’m not seeing the conditional, here.

    It’s not “you, specifically you who have used your authority your own interests to the harm of others, you don’t get to call yourselves these people’s fathers or teachers…”  At least I’m not catching that selection.

    The statement seems to be catchall for everybody.   Nobody gets to call themselves father or instructor, because the only one who gets any right to those titles, regardless of all else, is God.

    Context may say that, specifically, the Pharisees have acted improperly (which may or may not have been accurate to their actual actions of the time) but it seems to be saying that it is wrong to call *anybody* father or instructor save God.

  • Dash1

     Edo’s right: context is extremely important. Jesus is no more saying that you can’t call your father “Dad” than, in Matthew 12: 49ff. (“Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”), he was claiming Peter was his sister–or his mother, for that matter. Here is what I think is the core of the passage: there are people (perhaps any of us may be among them at times) who presume to assert with authority who God does and doesn’t approve of. Jesus is pointing out that in doing that we may be going directly against God’s intention both for ourselves and for those we presume to bar: not only are we refusing to enter into God’s kingdom, but we’re preventing others. (It is
    also convenient beyond belief, given our present situation with people
    who give themselves the title “Father,” that Jesus is suggesting they
    might not actually deserve it, even metaphorically.)

  • Amaryllis

     Yes. One the one hand, nobody gets to say who is or who is not to be regarded as a child of God. Nobody gets to say that anyone else shouldn’t be treated as a brother or sister.

    A title like “father” or “teacher” is meant to remind the one who holds it as to what his obligations are, and it is bitterly true that some who hold that title have proven themselves unworthy of it.

    On the other hand, that verse has been used ad nauseum by the “Catholics aren’t real Christians” crowd to justify their bigotry, to the point where my hackles are raised every time I see it.

    So once again, Here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.

  • Dash1

    Now, now. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our study of the theology of Tim LaHaye, it’s that Jesus was speaking directly to us in the 20th century (yeah, I know it’s the 21st, but LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, and folks of that ilk seem to think the Bible was directed to those living in the 20th, because that’s the only way all their stuff works out). So when he says “call no man ‘Father’ upon earth,” he was literally and directly instructing Roman Catholics to apply “They call him Mister Tibbs” to their priests.

    Also, although Jesus didn’t say anything about nuns, it’s clear from a literal reading that they should be included. So from now on, it’ll be Miss St. Anselm, if you please.


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