Matthew 23:11

New Testament

9 And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.

Sifre Deuteronomy 38:4

Halakhic Midrash

The land of Egypt — If one does not work in it (i.e., in the soil) with mattock and axe and (does not allow) sleep to escape his eyes, he has nothing of it. Not so Eretz Yisrael, but they (its inhabitants) sleep and the L-rd brings down rain for them. An analogy: A king is walking on the road, and, seeing a man of high estate, gives him a servant to serve him. He then sees another man of high estate, (having obviously been) preened and pampered, engaging in (mundane) labor, (all the while), conscious (of the nobility) of his ancestors — at which he says: I decree that you not toil with your own hands, and I will feed you (gratuitously). So, with all the lands, He gives them servants to serve them. Egypt drinks from the Nile; Bavel drinks from the Yuval. Not so Eretz Yisrael, but they (its inhabitants) sleep on their beds, and the Holy One Blessed be He brings down rain for them. To teach that not as the ways of flesh and blood are the ways of the Holy One Blessed be He. (A man of) flesh and blood acquires servants to feed and sustain him. But He who spoke and brought the world into being — He acquires servants for Himself, whom He Himself feeds and sustains. And once it happened that R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua and R. Tzaddok were seated at the (wedding) feast of R. Gamliel's son, when R. Gamliel poured a cup (of wine) for R. Elazar, who declined taking it, and for R. Yehoshua, who took it — whereupon R. Elazar said to him: What is this, Yohoshua? We are seated and R. Gamliel stands over us and serves us? R. Yehoshua: Let him serve. Abraham, the greatest man in the world served the ministering angels, (who came to visit him), thinking them to be Arab idolators, and R. Gamliel should not serve us? R. Tzaddok: You have forsaken the honor of the L-rd, and you occupy yourselves with the honor of flesh and blood! He who spoke and brought the world into being causes the winds to blow, and raises vapors and clouds and brings down rains and nurtures growths and sets a table for each and every man — and Gamliel should not serve us?

 Notes and References

"... The substance of verse 11 is in 20:26: Matthew repeatedly emphasizes humility. For instances of exalting oneself, see on 20:20-28; of humbling oneself, on 18:4 (compare Proverbs 15:33; 22:4; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6). 'Will be your servant,' 'will be humbled,' and 'will be exalted' are pure futures without imperatival force. The latter two could not be otherwise; so, verse 11 should be read the same way. The principle enunciated in these verses reflects not natural law but kingdom law: the eschatological reward will humble the self-exalted and exalt the self-humbled, after the pattern in Ezekiel 21:26. What is commended is humility, not humbug; service, not servility. The supreme example-the Messiah himself-makes this clear (20:26-28); for his astonishing humility and service to others was untainted by servility and was perfectly compatible with exercising the highest authority. Having done the greatest service, he has been most highly exalted ..."

Gaebelein, Frank Ely The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (p. 476) Pickering & Inglis, 1984

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