Number 0743

Source: North Marshall Messenger, 9/5/2003

The FLAW of Favoritism

by David Lemmons

One of the most obvious lessons from the family of Jacob is mentioned in the title of this article. Certainly it becomes obvious immediately that the favoritism Jacob showed toward Joseph caused tremendous problems among that ancient family. The giving of the special coat was a constant reminder to the other sons that there was one son who was loved above them and who would likely receive greater favor and blessings from their father. How could anything but problems develop from such a scenario as is revealed to us in the first eleven verses of Genesis 37?

Was God able to use this situation to bring about His own will in this matter. Yes, He certainly was, and Joseph knew well that God had providentially guided a positive outcome for his family (cf., Gen 50:20). Let us not, however, allow that fact to cause us to believe that the favoritism shown in that family by Jacob toward Joseph was a righteous thing. It certainly was not.

One thing about this favoritism problem Jacob had is quite striking. That is that we would think Jacob would have had greater understanding of the flaw of favoritism from his experience with his own father and brother (Genesis 25:28). As a direct result of favoritism in Isaac’s home, Jacob was put in fear of his own life being taken by his twin brother. And this fear was certainly justified according to Genesis 27:41-42. We would think such an experience would have removed forever any such tendencies in the heart of Jacob to show favoritism himself, but not so. He was openly egregious in the way he showed his special feeling toward the son of his old age.

The amazing fact that Jacob did not learn a lesson from his own childhood home might help to solidify in our own minds that such tendencies, though wrong, are mighty difficult to combat. The record seems to show that Esau was the hunter and what we today might call “outdoorsman,” whereas Jacob was not so much so. Evidently this was a part of the special attraction between Isaac and Esau (Genesis 25:28). It is understandable that such attraction would exist among those who share certain likes and dislikes. The problem comes when that attraction develops into favoritism. At that point, the affection and attraction have become a problem, a FLAW if you will.

We can look to the New Testament and see that favoritism was likewise a cause of problems among the early church. Whether intentional or not, there was at least the perception among some of the saints at Jerusalem that the Grecian widows were being neglected (Acts 6:1ff). In other words, favoritism was being shown toward the Hebrew widows in the distribution of assistance by the church, to the neglect of the non-Jews. In a remarkable demonstration of leadership, the apostles recognized the problem, stated the fact that they were otherwise occupied in an important work which could not be “put on hold” (i.e., prayer and ministry of the Word, v. 4), and assigned seven good men to take care of this problem. Had the favoritism continued, no doubt, a split could possibly have occurred in the Jerusalem church.

It might be well to point out that God does not have a problem with this FLAW of favoritism. It is no part of His nature! How thankful we ought to be that He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). We do not have to worry that some other brother or sister will be loved more by our Heavenly Father than are we loved. Our faithfulness to the will of the Lord is the only basis of standing with Him–Acts 10:35…But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

In the very practical epistle of James, however, there is warning given to us that it is WRONG to show favoritism toward the rich or to show respect of persons (James 2:1-9). Let us listen to the warning–James 2:9…But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. James is dealing with assemblies of the church in this context and so it is very applicable to each of us today. Is it possible that we would have a problem with showing favoritism?

I have often witnessed among our brethren in local churches the phenomenon I can best describe as “cliquishness.” A clique is defined as: A small, exclusive group of friends or associates. Cliquishness would be the act of participating in the development of such. Maybe you’ve never noticed it, but I think I have. It certainly is not wrong to have special friends who are also members of the church, nor to be involved in activities with one another, nor to share a great amount of time in the presence of these same Christians (that is very WISE, 1 Corinthians 15:33)! However, if the friendships we develop contain an air of exclusiveness which makes some feel unwelcome to associate in our group, then it seems to me that this is imbibing in the flaw of favoritism and we need to make changes in that situation. Surely we can learn from the situation in Genesis 37 that caution and care are called for in all of our relationships. Let us be the kind of people who want to build up and encourage all with whom we have contact. Let us never be involved in activities which might tend toward engendering envy or hatred on the part of others!