The Greatest Among You Shall be the Least

(Matthew 23:5-12)

The hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes extended to their desire to be considered as persons of importance. As Jesus showed in this section, they desired and looked for the adulation and praise of men rather than the praise of God. They took their roles to be positions of power so they could lord it over the people. However as Jesus taught, the greatest among you shall be the least.

There are many of the so-called leaders of the church today who still look at working in the ministry as an opportunity for power. They still seek the praise of men and are doing the same things the Pharisees did. In this section of scripture we see Jesus upbraid them for a number of things. They sought the best seats in the synagogues. Is this any different to the elders, pastors and leaders of the church having special seats assigned on the platform of the churches? They sought places of honour at feasts and salutations in the market place. Is this any different to those in the ministry who seek these same things today? They loved being called rabbi or teacher. Is this any different to those today that insist on being called father or pastor, using this as a title rather than a function?

No. These forms of hypocrisy that Jesus called the Pharisees and scribes to account for are still occurring in the church today. Jesus said that his people are not to do these things. Those in the service of the gospel and the Lord are called to serve. Just as Jesus said that he came to serve and not to be served, so too his people and especially the ministers of the gospel are called to serve.

The role of the ministers of the gospel is not to be at the head of the church. That is Jesus’ place. Indeed any man who sets himself up or is set up as the head of a church is taking the place of Jesus. This is even worse than hypocrisy for if a person takes the place of Jesus in the church, it is no longer a Christian church. This becomes an anti-Christ structure since they have replaced Christ.

Jesus said call no man on earth your father, not meaning our biological father, but meaning our spiritual father. We have only one spiritual Father and that is God. Likewise we should call no man teacher or master on earth. We have only one teacher and master and that is Jesus Christ.

What Jesus is saying is that we are a co-equal brotherhood in Christ. None is greater than any other or less than any other. We are all equal. Thus we should not use names or titles of exaltation or salutation with one another. As Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” One of the most important qualities we can all develop in our walk with Christ is an attitude of humility.

If we would wish to be exalted by the Lord and by God, then seek to be humble. Seek humility and you will be exalted by the Lord. Those who exalt themselves show themselves as being proud and arrogant. A proud person does not listen. An arrogant person does not learn for they believe they know better and are better than others. This was one of the main problems with the Pharisees. They were proud and arrogant and believed they had it all. They would not listen, they did not learn and so they missed out. Even worse, they opposed Jesus who could have taught them and they tried to prevent him teaching and preaching to the people, as they also did with the disciples.

We must take heed of these lessons in Matthew 23 and learn the mistakes of the Pharisees and scribes so we do not repeat their mistakes. We must be humble and sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from him. Then we will move forward and grow into mature Christians. Then we will be able to learn what is pleasing to God and do what is good in his sight. So be aware of these things and also be aware of any who are not practicing these things in accordance with the words of the Lord. Learn from the mistakes of the Pharisees so you do not repeat them.

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