The Temptation to Show Favoritism

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Equality is one of the founding ideals that we celebrate on the 4th of July. It is an ideal that was important to God long before 1776. Deuteronomy 10:17 tells us that our great, mighty, awesome God does not show partiality. In Acts 10:37, God sent Peter to teach the Gospel to a Gentile. Peter responded with the statement: “I most certainly understand now that God is not One to show partiality.” Romans 2:11 teaches: “For there is no partiality with God.”

The descriptions of Creation in Genesis and the death of Jesus on the Cross reveal the equality of all people: we are all made in God’s image; we all need a Savior. God loved us enough to provide one in Jesus.

God wants us to treat others with equality. We can’t treat people equally when we show favoritism or partiality. Partiality can show up in many destructive ways. One of those many ways is showing partiality based on the amount of material goods someone owns.

The book of James gives a vivid description of what that can look like:

My brothers and sisters,
do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ
with an attitude of personal favoritism.
For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring
and is dressed in bright clothes,
and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in,
and you pay special attention
to the one who is wearing the bright clothes, and say,
“You sit here in a good place,”
and you say to the poor man,
“You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves,
and become judges with evil motives?
James 2:1-4

Illustration called “Rich and Poor” from Harper’s Weekly January 17, 1827. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Partiality can show up in many other ways, too. Employers can favor younger employees over older ones. Husbands and wives can favor their own family over their spouse’s family.

Favoritism or partiality is even a temptation for parents. We can favor a quick learner over a learner who takes more time. We can favor a beautiful child over one who isn’t as physically attractive. We can favor a gregarious child over one who is shy. We can favor a child with a personality more like ours over one whose personality is markedly different. We can favor a quiet child over a rambunctious one. We can even favor a child with a particular learning challenge over one who doesn’t give us as much to be concerned about—or vice versa.

Treating everyone with equity and fairness without a hint of favoritism or partiality is a challenge, but it is an important part of treating others the way we want to be treated, of loving our neighbors as ourselves, and of making our children feel deeply loved and affirmed.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; 
do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4









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