Monday, October 21, 2019

Religious Titles Of Honor In The Roman Catholic Hierarchy

           Roman Catholic priests are addressed by the name of "Father" as a formal religious title of honor. In addition, the pope uses the title "Holy Father." However, these titles of exaltation become problematic in light of Jesus Christ's teaching on this matter:

           "But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:8-12)

           The context of this passage focuses on religious elitism and hypocrisy. The scribes and Pharisees loved being the center of attention. They did good works with the intention of receiving praise from other people. That is what those men desired. The scribes and Pharisees were outwardly righteous, but were depraved to the core of their being. They had no love in their hearts for God or other people. Jesus knew this and was insulted by their behavior.

            We can recognize an individual as being a spiritual father, a teacher, bishop, elder, overseer, pastor, or a deacon. It is appropriate to recognize the academic achievements of other people. However, there is no biblical warrant for emphasizing titles to the point of self-exaltation. For instance, we never see people in the New Testament called "Father David," "Reverend Peter," "Doctor Timothy," etc. We have no business claiming for ourselves a deference that we do not deserve. The church is God's kingdom.

           We are "brethren" in Jesus Christ. That means no one in the church has intrinsic superiority over another. We are all servants of Christ. He is our Master. We are not to use titles to call attention to ourselves and our accomplishments. God already knows our hearts. He knows whether or not we are faithful to Him. That should be our utmost priority. There is nothing scriptural about leaders in the church requiring others to address them by special titles of honor.

           Matthew 23:5-13 specifically forbids the love of flattering religious titles and believers striving to be placed on a pedestal. The underlying problem with insisting that we be addressed by formal titles of honor in the church is our tendency to become puffed-up. Further, ministers should not demand to be addressed by a particular title, especially when there may be older and more accomplished individuals than themselves in the assembly. Ministers may not even know everyone around themselves personally. God honors those who are humble. He despises arrogance.

        Lastly, nothing could be more haughty than the pope being called "Holy Father." That title in Scripture is applied only to God (John 17:11). Only He is worthy of that kind of exaltation (Revelation 15:4). No man who claims to represent Christ on this earth should feel comfortable with reserving the title "Holy Father" for himself. If Roman Catholic officials truly are humble people, then why not give up any special titles of honor that they currently wield? Why not strive to be different than the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus Christ scolded?

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