Can we call anyone "father" besides God, including our parents?

by Matt Slick

Can we call anyone "father" besides God, including our parents?

  1. Honor Your Father
    1. Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."
  2. Don't Call anyone Father
    1. Matthew 23:8-10, "“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ."

In Exodus 20:12, we are commanded by God to honor our "father and mother." Jesus says, in Matthew 23:8-9, to call no one father except God. So which is it? Can we refer to our earthly dads as father, or are we only supposed to use the term in reference to God?

The answer lies in the context of what Jesus was saying. In Matthew 23, he was speaking to the multitudes and his disciples (verse 1). He was talking about how the scribes and Pharisees had seated themselves in "The chair of Moses," which was a position of authority within the Jewish system at the time of the Pharisees. But Jesus was condemning them because he said that they "tie up heavy loads and laid them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them," (Matthew 23:4). In verse 8, Jesus says not to call anyone Rabbi (which means teacher).

"This was the title given to eminent teachers and founders of schools, to whom the people were taught to look up [to] rather than to God. It was also addressed to prophets (2 Kings 2:12; 6:21). In ver. 8 Christ said, “be not called;” here he uses the active, “call not,” as if he would intimate that his followers must not give this honoured title to any doctor out of complaisance, or flattery, or affectation."1

So, Jesus was saying that the true authority lies not with men but with God. In the context of the religious leaders of Israel and calling someone "father," Jesus was saying not to give them the reverence and honor which belong to God. Jesus was not speaking in a biological sense as in Exodus 20:12. He was speaking about ecclesiastical superiority.



  • 1. The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 2, page 397

 

 

 

 
 
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