WRIGHT WAY: Honoring men with titles?
by WILLIAM WRIGHT
Jan 09, 2013 | 2553 views | 0 0 comments | 140 140 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is a saying that applies to flattery: “Many lick before they bite.” If you have lived long enough, you know this is true.

You may have seen prominent people whose lives were destroyed by those who gravitated toward their "power," flattered their way into their lives, and ultimately contributed to their downfall.

This happens, not simply because of the flatterer, but because the person who is flattered did not see it for what it was — an attempt to get something.

One Dictionary defines flattery as, “Excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interest.” Proverbs 26:28 warns, “Flattering words cause ruin.” — New Living Translation. Proverbs 29:5 adds, “Flattery is nothing less than setting a trap.” — Contemporary English Version.

Because flattery appeals to a person’s pride it is easy to see why Norman Vincent Peale could state, “The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

This has raised questions in the minds of many devout people regarding titles for religious leaders and whether or not these titles as part of their names are Scriptural or even warranted. What do you think?

In Chapter 7 of James Gardner’s book “The Christians of New England,” Gardner wrote, “A symbol of the change in church leadership was the introduction of the term “reverend” as a title for Christian preachers. Early Christians in New England had indignantly rejected the term as being both vain and unscriptural. In 1813, Frederick Plummer refused to address his Methodist adversary in a debate as “Reverend,” not, as he explained to his opponent, out of disrespect to him, but out of proper respect for God.”

There was only one place in the King James Bible where the word reverend was used. It is at Psalms 111:9. Speaking of God, it reads, “He hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.”

Most modern translations, including the New King James Version, have removed the word “reverend” and translated the word as “awesome,” “mighty” or “fear-inspiring.” Regardless of which phrase is used, how do you think God feels when humans take such a title and use it with their name? Could this be viewed as a form of flattery?

When Bible commentator Albert Barnes rejected the title “Doctor of Divinity,” he wrote, “Jesus forbade his disciples to seek such titles of distinction. The reason he gave was that he was himself their Master and Teacher. They were on a level; they were to be equal in authority; they were brethren; and they should neither covet nor receive a title which implied either an elevation of one above another, or which appeared to infringe on the absolute right of the Saviour to be their only Teacher and Master. It tends to engender pride, and a sense of superiority in those who obtain it; and envy and a sense of inferiority in those who do not; and the whole spirit and tendency of it is contrary to the ‘simplicity that is in Christ.’”

Elihu set a fine example when he said at Job 32:21-22, “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.” — King James Version.

Most people will agree that there is a huge difference between a title and a flattering title. For example, to call a physician “Dr. so-and-so is appropriate. To address a policeman as “Officer so-and-so” is fitting, as it would be to call government officials Councilman, Congressman, Senator, Ambassador, Judge or President.

Even Jesus Christ used the title of a ruler at Matthew 22:21 when he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” — Common English Bible. Caesar was not a name, but a title, just as Pharaoh, King and Governor are all titles. Regarding this usage, Romans 13:7 says Christians should “Honor those you should honor.” — Common English Bible.

But what about the use of religious titles? At Matthew 23:8-10 Jesus said, “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.” — New American Standard Bible.

Was Jesus saying children should not call their paternal parent “father?” When we consider Matthew 10:37 where Jesus uses the word “father” to describe the man of the house and Paul uses it in a similar way in Ephesians 6:4, we can see this use of father is appropriate.

The New Living Translation makes it clearer at Matthew 23:8-9: “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.” — New Living Translation.

Decide for yourself how you address others, but when it comes to our service to God, flattery will get us nowhere.

*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more than 100 Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.