Is it wrong to be called rabbi, teacher, father, or leader by others according to Matthew 23:8-11?
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.”
The point that Jesus is making is don’t “seek” to be called by these titles (Rabbi/Teacher, Father, or Leader). This is neither an absolute prohibiting of officials nor the prohibiting of appropriate titles, for Paul calls himself “father” (spiritually) of the Corinthians and, he calls Timothy his (spiritual) child in 1 Cor. 4:15, 17. The phrase “the greatest among you” (Matt. 23:10) and “great among you” (Matt. 20:26) clearly show the validity of differing positions/rank. However, the spirit of humility should govern believers, rather than the self-seeking ambition of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-7), who usurped for themselves authority that belongs to God – Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 970.
Titles and position were not to be sought. Instead, there should be a brotherly relationship among the disciples (Matt. 23:8). Jesus was not saying that there would be no lines of authority among them, but He was emphasizing that service for Him was more important than a human position of honor. Leadership positions should never be a goal in and of themselves, but should always be viewed as opportunities to serve others – The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 74.
To construe the injunctions of Matt. 23:8-10 into a condemnation of every title by which Church rulers may be distinguished from the flock which they rule, is virtually to condemn that rule itself. Rather the injunctions are warnings against the itch for ecclesiastical superiority – Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 940. According to Acts 12:17 and Acts 21:18, James, Jesus’ half-brother, appears to be the leader of the first church.
That these commands in Matt. 23:8-11 refer to the desire for prideful titles rather than to what people actually are by function or qualification is apparent from the fact that: Jesus Himself labels certain of His disciples as leaders (Lk. 22:26); certain spiritually gifted believers are called teachers (Eph. 4:11); Peter refers to himself by the title of elder (1 Pet. 5:1); the author of Hebrews refers to certain spiritual authorities as leaders (Heb. 13:17, 24); and other leadership titles are used to describe spiritual authorities (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2, 8; 5:17; Titus 1:5, 7); as well as what has already been said about Paul calling himself a father (spiritually) because he was (1 Cor. 4:15).
So it’s not wrong to be called a teacher, father, leader or to call someone any of these, if it is true of that person, and that person is not seeking prideful recognition.