You have to be at least mildly impressed by the appearance of the Pharisees and scribes. They were über (extremely) serious about their religion and showed this by their appearance. They made their phylacteries wide (the leather straps which held a portion of the Law in a box on their forehead or hand [see Deut 6:8; 11:18]), and made the tassels on their garments and prayer shawls long. Their clothes and religious symbols became their badges of pride. And they liked titles such as ‘rabbi’ which helped send the message they were better teachers than anyone else and deserved more respect.
Like many executives today, Jesus’ followers were affected by this projected leadership status and position of the Pharisees and scribes. In Matt 23:1-12, Jesus teaches his disciples not to get caught up in their image of spiritual superiority. They were hypocrites and laid legalistic burdens on people but did not give relief to the lawbreaker. They were all law and no grace. But Jesus offered an alternative. No-one in his new community (called the church), is to be called ‘rabbi’ (meaning ‘my great one’), because God will be their Teacher. They were now a community of brothers and sisters with an equality in status, and positions of superiority were gone. Neither were any to be called ‘father’, because this title would be reserved only for their heavenly Father. Nor are they to be called ‘instructors’, because they now have one called the Messiah (Matt 23:10). Leadership would be demonstrated in their humble service, not by flaunting their religious badges which projected their self-importance.