What does Matthew 23:11 mean?
ESV: The greatest among you shall be your servant.
NIV: The greatest among you will be your servant.
NASB: But the greatest of you shall be your servant.
CSB: The greatest among you will be your servant.
NLT: The greatest among you must be a servant.
KJV: But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Verse Commentary:
This repeats something Jesus has said several times to His disciples: that greatness in the eyes of God is different from greatness in the eyes of men (Matthew 19:30; 20:16). In fact, the most godly role to which one can aspire is to be a servant to others (John 13:12–16). This perspective is given in a clear context, and a clear contrast. Jesus has just forbidden His disciples from taking titles for the sake of worldly honor, as the scribes and Pharisees were doing.

Not long before this, Jesus explained this same concept in detail. This was in response to arguments between the disciples about which would take the greatest positions in His kingdom:
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25–28)
Verse Context:
Matthew 23:1–12 begins Jesus' condemnation of Israel's religious leaders, summarized with the phrase "the scribes and the Pharisees." He warns those listening not to follow their example, since they don't practice what they preach. Their words imply heavy burdens, but their actions don't reflect the same. They make no effort to help others fulfill those requirements. In fact, everything they do is for show: only to be seen and approved of by others. They make a great show of religious clothes and symbols, jockey for the seats of honor everywhere they go, and take enormous pride in their prestigious spiritual titles.
Chapter Summary:
After thoroughly dismantling scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in debate, Jesus even more thoroughly condemns these religious leaders for their religious hypocrisy. They do all their religious acts and works to be seen and approved of by other people. Jesus pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. He repeatedly calls them "blind" and "hypocrites." He concludes with a lament for Jerusalem and her children who rejected His protection. God's judgment is coming.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 23 concludes Matthew's multi-chapter account of all of Jesus' interactions in the temple during the last week before His arrest and crucifixion. After silencing the religious leaders with parables and brilliant responses (Matthew 21—22), He pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. Jesus mourns for the judgment that will come on Jerusalem for her rejection of God. This leads Jesus to leave the temple, sadly remarking on its impending destruction (Matthew 24:1–2). As the disciples ask about this, Jesus begins an extended teaching on the end times in chapter 24.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 4/16/2024 1:45:29 PM
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Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.