Job 32:21-22 – “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22 For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.” KJV
I’ve been called many things in my years as a preacher and minister of God’s word most of them good. Most of the times, it was out of their respect for either me or the ministry and the calling of God. Some of the times it was an attempt to flatter. I am uncomfortable with flattering titles and have long instructed people that it is okay to call me Roy because that is my name. Kim Clements called me out in a meeting years ago and said over and over with no explanation, “flattery, flattery, flattery.” At first, I wondered what he meant and why that’s all he said and before I could approach him I sensed in my heart this was a warning from heaven. People had been lauding me regarding my preaching and attempting to elevate me to a lofty position among them. I realized that it was the Loving Hand of God protecting me with a gentle warning. I later told a group of men from the church I was leading that the highest title of honor or distinction they could use would be to call me brother. Being a member of the Body of Christ, a fellow-heirs with those identified as the laity as well as those identified as the clergy moves my heart.
Here in the Book of Job and the speeches of his so-called comforters or friends, there is little wisdom to be gleaned in their superfluous diatribe and their self-righteousness and lack of understanding of the character of God. However, Elihu offers a nugget that I find relevant to every generation. He declared that it was sinful to give flattering titles to mortal men and that he always restrained himself in that area. If you understand that flattery is rooted in deceit and egotism you understand why God would not approve of it. Elihu said, that by refusing to give flattering titles to man, he was refraining for saying things about men that were not true in order to build them up, stroke their egos, or win brownie points. He declared that God would judge that and deem it sin. That is a very strong statement.
In the New Testament, when people called Paul and Barnabas ‘gods’ because Paul had been used of God to heal a cripple man, the apostles reacted strongly and were repulsed by that ascription. When King Herod allowed people to call him a god, God judged him quickly and it cost him his life. In Proverbs 26:28 we read, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Proverbs 29:5 it declares, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.” It is a snare and one that we can easily avoid.
Please understand, I am not condemning, nor do I believe Scripture condemns the use of the title “Pastor.” In Scripture there are references to the pastor, elder, bishop, etc. and that is not that to which I am referring. What I am speaking to is the apparent need of individuals to self-identify by a title not earned through education or given biblically by the Spirit of God or the church. In my early years of ministry, it was a common practice of preachers to call each other “doc” although few of them had earned a doctorate educationally. It was done with malicious intent but something that became a fad and as a result, I witnessed a number of preachers referring to themselves as “Doctor” when they do not have the educational credentials to back that up. Please know that I am not downplaying education, I have quite a bit of it myself but have not earned a doctorate educationally although experientially I may have gone through enough battles, struggles, trials and life experiences as well as biblical study to experientially deserve the title. What am I saying? Simply if you are comfortable calling me or any preacher by Reverend, I can live with it, although I would prefer you simply referred to me as a brother. I have been called Pastor and the title was not meant to flatter but respect and I appreciated it. I have been called various titles because of the Gifts of God operating in my life and I resist them because what I do is a function, not a title. (That’s my personal view).
The greatest honor you can give me is to identify me as a brother in Christ. We are members of the same body. In 1 Corinthians 12:27 we are identified as Christ’s Body and individually members of it. I would recommend a careful study of 1 Corinthians 12 and the functions of the various parts of the body. I believe it will help you to have a greater appreciation of the other members of the Body of Christ.
I’ve had people speak good things about good about my preaching to my face and although they were sincere, most of the time, if I internalized their comments it would be flattery. I am simply a messenger, not the message. Like John the Baptist, “He must increase but I must decrease.” I have instructed churches that I led to NEVER focus on me and ascribe to me such a lofty position that they got their eyes off Jesus. I attempted to teach them biblical truths and right focus so when I departed that congregation they would not be focusing on me, how I did it, or what I preached or how, but JESUS! We, who lead congregations, are simply the under-shepherds. I’m quite sure I’ve had people, behind my back, say very unflattering things about my preaching and my person.
If you are a child of God you are my brother or sister in the LORD and when I identify you as brother or sister, I am not trying to flatter you but recognize Him who makes you special. I am recognizing His work of grace in you. If we focused less on position and titles and more on function, I believe we would touch the world much more powerfully. I’ve said, although not original with me, regarding labels, titles, and tags, “if you go up they’ll fall off and if you go down, they’ll burn off.” I like the song of the Hinson’s, “I don’t care what you call me but when He calls me, call me gone!” Give honor to whom honor is due and tribute to whom tribute is due, but do not give flattery it has no redemptive purpose.
God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!