“Do not call anyone on earth YOUR FATHER” — Matthew 23:9

Matthew 23:9 (NKJV)

9 Do not call anyone on earth YOUR FATHER; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  


It is apparent that Jesus’ statement in this text must not be given a blanket interpretation. The Bible records several instances where men on Earth are called “father.”


For instance, our Lord Jesus Christ, teaching via a parable in Luke 16:24, calls Abraham “father Abraham.


Also, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 4:11 calls Abraham, “the father of all those who believe.” In Vs. 16 of the same chapter, he calls Abraham “the father of us all.


Thus, diligence must be exerted to ascertain what exactly our Lord meant in Matthew 23:9 where He says, “Do not call anyone on earth YOUR FATHER.”


Obviously, the diligent Bible student would endeavour to find out who “anyone” within this text is. Reading in context would help.


From the antecedent texts (the verses which came before), it can be observed that the Pharisees are in view here:


Matthew 23:1-8 (NKJV)

1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The SCRIBES and the PHARISEES sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their WORKS; for they say, and DO NOT DO.

4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be SEEN BY MEN. They make their phylacteries broad and ENLARGE the borders of their garments. 6 They love the BEST places at feasts, the BEST seats in the synagogues, 7 GREETINGS in the marketplaces, and TO BE CALLED BY MEN, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.’ 


It may be deduced from the foregoing that Jesus is speaking of the Pharisees who sought glory from men, and He is warning the people about them.


The Pharisees wanted unquestioned obedience, even though their lifestyle was hypocritical. That is, their words didn’t match their actions (vs. 3). They wanted respect to be shown them, even without deserving it.


The Pharisees also loved titles; they liked to be called Rabbi (or Teacher), vs. 7.


Then they also liked to be called father. Hence our Lord Jesus’ statement in vs. 9;

9 Do not call anyone on earth your FATHER; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.


So “anyone” here are the Pharisees who wanted the praises of men. They forced the people to call them “father.” They are the “anyone” Jesus was referring to here (in vs. 9).


Thus, the text may be better read this way:

Do not call anyone (of the Pharisees) on earth your father.


The phrase “on earth” is to emphasize the fact that the Pharisees were mere humans, despite their attempts to deify themselves before the people (the Pharisees had tried to take God’s place in the lives of the people).


So that phrase “Do not call anyone on earth your father” would mean “Don’t treat the Pharisees like they are God.”


Thus, Jesus is teaching against the misuse of spiritual fathering. The statement here was directed at The Pharisees who WANTED to be called “father” by force! Leadership must not be tyrannical. True leadership, as seen in Christ, is in service.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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