Partiality among God’s people hinders fellowship.
HYMN: JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM
Text: James 2:1-13, Matt. 20:20-23
Today’s topic focuses on an aspect of the human character that holds great potential for disunity, disintegration, and destruction in individuals, homes, and organizations. Since Christians have been called to live in love and unity, it becomes necessary to examine the subject of favoritism and the various forms in which it may manifest in the church and individual lives. By doing so, one might be able to use the word of God to do a fair assessment of oneself with a view to making adjustment if need be. In James 1:23, the Bible has been compared to a mirror by which we can examine our lives as individual Christians or bodies.
As humans, we are apt to have preferences in our daily interactions with people. Much as this is not objectionable however, Christians must be careful not to allow such preferences put them at variance with God’s established standards. This is because God with whom we have to do, makes His rain and sun fall and shine respectively upon both the righteous and the unrighteous. He does not show respect of persons.
The objectives of this study are:
1. To understand what favoritism means
2. To examine some manifestations of favoritism
3. To examine the consequences of favoritism
4. To identify why people show favoritism.
5. To suggest ways of dealing with favoritism
Q1. WHAT IS FAVORITISM?
Favoritism is the act of being partial or biased towards a person or group. It is a display of special treatment accorded an individual or group usually at the expense of others. It implies treating one person different from another based on bias.
Favoritism can also be defined as an unequal or unfair treatment of people. Although derived from the word favor, it is however used in the negative sense when one shows preferential treatment to an individual usually at the expense of others. Such preferential treatment is given on the basis of factors like the persons age, birth, tribe, family, sex, church, financial status, authority, political affiliations etc.
It is described in some scriptural presentation as “respect of persons” (Deut. 1:17, 1 Peter 1:17) as being partial (Mal. 2:9, James 2:4) and partiality (1 Tim. 5:17, James 3:17).
As Christians we need to understand that favoritism is not part of God’s character whom the Bible says judges or treats people according to their works or doings (Acts 10:34-35, Eph. 6:8-9, 1 Peter 1:17). We also need to realize that being impartial is an attribute of God (James 3:17) and needs to be cultivated.
Q2. ARE THERE EXAMPLES OF FAVORITISM IN THE BIBLE?
In Gen 37:1-4, Jacob showed preferential treatment to Joseph above his other children. For Joseph, Jacob made a coat of many colors which incurred the envy of his brethren. James 2:1-3 gives a vivid account of how in the church, the rich are treated specially while the poor were despised. Similarly Acts 6:1 tells us how selective attention was paid to the native Jewish widows above the Grecian widows in the serving of food (i.e. the church welfare scheme).
The above incidents show clearly that favoritism can sometimes be manifested unconsciously among Christians.
Q3. IN WHAT WAYS CAN FAVORITISM BE MANIFESTED BY CHRISTIANS?
Favoritism can be manifested in different ways and places as discussed below.
A. Wedding Ceremonies
It is not unusual for food servers to serve only their guests, acquittances or families of the celebrants while neglecting others. This is common when it is obvious that the food will not go around.
B. Church discipline (1 Tim. 5:19-21)
Church leaders may fail to implement disciplinary action against certain persons when such are their children (eg. Eli), friends, family or the wealthy etc. If the persons involved were otherwise, they (i.e. the leaders) would have disciplined them.
C. Family (Gen. 37:1-4)
Parents also tend to discriminate or behave partially towards their children, as in the buying of clothes or gifts etc. for some and neglecting others. Sometimes children also show favoritism towards a parent above the other.
D. Work place/office
An employer/boss may grant an employee/subordinate special favors e.g. permission to be absent from work, sick leave, less duties etc. while denying others such privileges. Sometimes an individual is promoted while others having similar qualifications are denied the same.
E. Judgment (Deut. 16:18-19, Lev. 19:15)
Favoritism is demonstrated when a judge (you can be a judge in your home, church or office) delivers judgement in favor of an individual because of his status, wealth, etc. instead of judging according to the true facts.
Favoritism is displayed when a teacher pays special attention to a student who comes to him for further explanation with gratifications while ignoring others who come to him for similar purpose, but are unable to afford the “price”.
G. Church gatherings
There have been cases in church gatherings where expensively dressed pastors and brethren are ushered to the altar or front seats respectively while poor pastors and brethren are made to sit in the congregation or ushered to the back seat respectively. To justify this evil we often say, “pastors should be examples to the flock in dressing or people should come to the house of God well dressed”. What then happens to the poor brethren in our midst?
H. Welfare schemes (Acts 6:1)
In administration of church welfare scheme or others, selected people based on tribe, friendship etc. are made to benefit while others are deliberately ignored.
Q4. WHY DO PEOPLE SHOW FAVORITISM GENERALLY?
People show favoritism for a number of reasons some of which are discussed below.
A. Fear of man (Deut. 1:17)
The feeling of insecurity, timidity, fear, or people’s status e.g. authority or connection, make people show partiality, they fear what man might do to them,
B. Tribal sentiments (Acts 6:1)
People with strong tribal sentiments tend to be biased against those not from their tribe.
C. Love of money (Deut. 16:18-19).
The love of money or greed for gain cause some to show favoritism towards the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.
D. Career choice (Gen. 25:27-28)
Parents sometimes show favoritism towards children who have chosen careers that are pleasing to them. Isaac favored Esau because he was a hunter and ate from his game while Rebecca favored Jacob because he was homely.
E. School teachers and parents may show partiality towards a child because he/she is brilliant
F. Family and friendship ties may account for some people’s show of favoritism
Gen. 37:3 shows that Jacob favored Joseph because he was the son of his old age.
Q5. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SHOWING FAVORITISM?
Be it in the home, office, or church, showing favoritism has unpleasant consequences some of which are discussed below.
Murmuring and strife are natural by-products of favoritism (Acts 6:1). It breeds disunity among the brethren, causing confusion and exposing the church to Satan’s evil works/attack (James 3:16).
Favoritism also causes division in the work place and home which can degenerate into members working against each other. Rebecca and Jacob worked against Esau’s blessings (Gen. 27:1-10) while Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen. 37:18-28).
Lack of respect for church leadership results when they show partiality. People may leave the church, despise ministers’ messages and the church will not grow. Until the problem of favoritism was addressed by the apostle, church growth was hampered (Acts 6:1-7).
Q6. HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN VIEW AND DEAL WITH FAVORITISM?
Favoritism is a sin (Prov. 24:23, 2:9) and a work of the flesh. It must therefore be dealt with as such.
The following are suggested ways through which we should address the problem of favoritism.
A. Having known that favoritism is a sin one repent of it. Seeing it is a work of the flesh.
B. It must be mortified i.e. “put to death since it is a work of the flesh” (Col. 3:5). This means we must take a conscious decision to be impartial in our dealings and resist every tendency to do otherwise.
C. Have complete trust in God. A man whose faith is in God gives to regard to people’s wealth and connections in his dealings.
D. Be bold (2 Tim 1:7). It takes boldness to treat people fairly despite their high status (wealth, authority, or age).
Steps must be taken to address every known case of favoritism in the home, church etc. Like the early apostles, this may require calling for a meeting in which the matter at stake is dealt with (Acts 6:1-3).
Daily Living Application:
We’ve understood what favoritism is all about. However, this study was not designed to merely add to our stock of knowledge, but to bring about an attitudinal and behavioral change in us. As we address the issue of favoritism in our midst, we would not only be pleasing God but also healing the wounds and hurts in our homes, offices, churches and in the community.
“These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment”.
Daily Devotional Guide
Monday: God does not show favoritism
Acts 10:34-35, Eph. 6:9
Tuesday: Being impartial is a fruit of the spirit
James 3:17, Gal. 5:16-25
Wednesday: Favoritism is a sin
Prov. 24:23, James 2:8-11
Thursday: Parents should guard against showing favoritism towards a child
Gen. 25:27-28, 37:1-4
Friday: Favoritism causes disunity, confusion and decline in the church, homes, offices etc.
Acts 6:1-7, James 3:14-16, Gen. 37:18-28
Saturday: Every work of the flesh including favoritism must be repented of and mortified
Col. 3:5, Gal 5:1