8 You must not be called “Teacher,” because you are all equal and have only one Teacher. 9 And you must not call anyone here on earth “Father,” because you have only the one Father in heaven. 10 Nor should you be called “Leader,” because your one and only leader is the Messiah. 11 The greatest one among you must be your servant. 12 Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great.
Matthew 23:8–12 (Good News Translation)
1Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
As a social worker, you are a teacher of others. You will teach people skills, you will teach them about resources, and you will teach them about their illnesses, disabilities, diagnosis and their causes. But most importantly you will be teaching them what to believe. Just as children believe their parents, model their behavior and adopt their attitudes, so our clients who trust us and submit themselves to our care will do with us. That is how it works. We believe through relationship, and we believe that what we are being told or shown is true.
As social workers we have authority, responsibility and power in the lives of others. We are telling and showing people what we have decided and come to believe is true. Even in our best attempts to be client centered in our approach we speak into the lives of and guide and model behavior to others. This is a profound responsibility, because truth is from God, and when we speak in the name of truth we are really speaking in His name. In light of this, we should pause and take the words of the Apostle James to heart when he says “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”. Why? Because as teachers, we will shape other people and therefore be responsible before God for what we taught and the messages we sent, and as James says, “We all stumble in many ways”.
Jesus makes the same point when he tells His disciples, “You must not be called ‘Teacher,’ because you are all equal and have only one Teacher”. Jesus is reminding His disciples that they should not see themselves as, or point others to themselves as the authority, but to God as the authority. He also reminds us that in the world we are used to a system where people set themselves up to be experts who like to tell others what to do and have status, prestige and power because of what they know. We should not be like this Jesus says. Instead, we are to remember that He is THE teacher, we are the followers, and that humbling ourselves to serve others, and pointing them to God and His truth, is the way to greatness.
Father, thank you for calling me and trusting me with this privilege and honor of serving others as a social worker. Help me to remember that with my words and actions I am always pointing others to truth and that this is a great responsibility. Teach me what truth is so that I can be faithful to represent it to others. Help me to not ever set myself up as the ultimate authority but to point others to you and the principles of your Word as the authority. Thank you God that as I humble myself and serve in this way that I will know true greatness. Amen.
Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
Respond to the following discussion prompts:
Think this week about the power of your role as a social worker and teacher in the lives of others, and also the influence that your supervisor is having in your life as a student. Describe and give an example of how you have seen a client, friend or colleague adopt the attitudes, beliefs or opinions of someone who was his or her teacher, leader, therapist or supervisor. What was helpful about it? What may not have been helpful? If the person was a Christian, how did this relationship help point the person to begin to rely on God instead of just them? If they were not a Christian, what philosophy did they leave the person with to follow?
As someone with authority in the lives of others, you may eventually be tempted to see yourself as an expert that people should listen to because of your knowledge and training. This is not all bad, but discuss what you can do to stay humble as you gain expertise and what specific steps you can take to guard against pride.
Discuss what it means to you to be in a position of leadership as a social worker. What does it mean for you regarding your accountability to God or answering to Him someday for your influence in the lives of others?