A Biblical Consideration of Honorifics
An honorific is a title that conveys esteem or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to someone.
1. Honorifics are used in the Bible when addressing strangers, those in authority or non-peers (different social status). (Jud 6:13; Mat 20:30-33, 8:6; Mar 10:51, 11:21; Luk 14:22; Joh 1:38, 12:25, 20:16; Rev 7:14)
2. Wives are commended for using an honorific in relation to their husband since it signifies that he is her authority (i.e. they are not peers).
3. Anyone, therefore, that is not my peer but rather is of higher social status or authority should be addressed using an honorific. (Rom 13:7)
3.1. Parents (“mom, dad”)
3.2. Law enforcement (“Sir, officer”)
3.3. President (“sir, president, Mr., Mrs.)
3.4. Persons old enough to be our parents (“Mr., Mrs., Miss, sir, ma’am”) (Lev 19:32)
3.5. Non-sibling adults when we are minors (“Mr., Mrs., Miss”)
3.6. Elders in the church (“pastor”)
3.7. Bosses in the workplace (“Mr., Mrs., sir, ma’am”)
3.8. Teachers (“Mr., Mrs., Teacher”)
4. Jesus is not teaching against this in Matthew 23:8-10. A common practice in Jesus’ day that continues even today is the attachment of disciples to a particular Jewish teacher as their authority. It was even believed in ancient times that it did not matter whether who you listened to was right or wrong as long as you were loyal to them. It is in this respect that Jesus prohibits the use of these honorific terms. In other words, our highest authority must be Jesus: He is the One Who trumps all others on what to do or what not to do. Hence why Paul can say what he does in 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 and 4:15 and not be schizophrenic.
5. The removal of honorifics in our society is contributed significantly to the egalitarianism so prominent in the church today (e.g. women as pastors). In other words: Without the distinctions these honorifics provide, people assume all people to be peers. As a result, submission to authority is lost.