Religious Titles

J. D. Conley
November 9, 2014

The word "religion" comes from the Latin word "religare," meaning to restrain, tie back, (Merriam-Webster). A common definition is, "to bind back to God." The one who is truly religious is concerned only with being right with God and maintaining a right relationship with Deity. Thus, being religious has nothing to do with self glory or exalting oneself over others. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their pseudo piety and for their insatiable desire for human praise, (Mt.23:5-10). In fact, some of our Lord’s harshest denunciations were leveled against this so-called "religious" lot, (Mt.23:23ff).

The prideful practice of wearing religious titles seeks to exalt the wearer. It takes the attention off our Creator, the infallible God, and puts it on the creature, fallible man. The Holy Scriptures make it clear that human beings are not to engage in the selfish wearing of religious titles. Consider the following religious titles that man has bestowed upon himself:

"Father " - Jesus commands, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Mt.23:9). Jesus is not forbidding calling our earthly fathers, "father.” After all, every person has had an earthly father, with the exception of Adam and Eve. God has made our very being possible through our fathers and is certainly not condemning referring to them by this universal appellative. The immediate context deals with the condemnation of wearing religious, [i.e., God deserved] titles. Jesus is saying to us, "don't seek honor that belongs only to Deity." When men wear, acknowledge, or use "father," as a religious title, they stand condemned by the Lord.

"Reverend" - The ninth verse of the hundred and eleventh psalm ends this way, "...holy and reverend is his name." This is the only place in the Bible where the term "reverend" is used. In repudiating the practice of men wearing this so-called title, well meaning brethren have argued, "Reverend is God's name," meaning it belongs only to God and only God can be called "Reverend." But that's not what the psalmist is saying. Rather, he is declaring that the name "God," is holy and reverend." It's used as an adjective not as an appellative. God is the only One who is holy and reverend. These attributes are exclusively His in the perfect and absolute sense. How dare man assign to himself these Divine attributes that belong only to Deity!

There are many other religious titles with which man has bedecked himself. But the two above are the most widespread. May Christians use caution in not using these titles and lovingly correct those who do.