Don’t Play Favorites
Read James 2:1 (ESV)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
Why is favoritism at odds with God’s design?
We all have favorite things. We all have preferences. We have favorite foods, favorite sports teams, and our favorite types of music. Some of us prefer turf and some prefer surf. You might be more of a beach person than a mountain person. You might be a little more country and someone else a little more rock ‘n roll. It’s ok to have preferences. You can play favorites with things. But you shouldn’t play favorites with people.
That is what James is saying to us today. He starts off with “my brothers” which means that he is addressing fellow believers in Christ. He calls his readers his brethren because when we become believers in Jesus Christ, we become members of the family of God. John said so in John 1:12: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Fellow believers are family members.
Favoritism is always destructive, especially in families. It divides sibling against sibling, parents against children, and sometimes even parent against parent. We see the divisiveness of favoritism in the Old Testament narrative of Isaac’s family. In Genesis 25:27-28 it says of Isaac and Rebekah’s children: “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” This favoritism ended up causing deep family pain when Rebekah helped Jacob deceive his father, Isaac so that he could receive the blessing of the firstborn that should have gone to Esau (Genesis 27). So much family turmoil is caused by this that Esau hated his brother enough to threaten to kill him and Jacob ended up getting sent away.
Unfortunately though, Jacob continued the sin of partiality within his own family. It had disastrous consequences as well. You can read about it from chapter 29 to the end of Genesis. Jacob was tricked into marrying two sisters but he loved his wife Rachel more than his wife Leah. Obviously, this deeply wounded Leah and drove a deep wedge between the two sisters. The favoritism he felt towards his wife, Rachel, led him to love her children more than Leah’s children. He doted on Joseph and gave him a special colorful coat which angered his jealous brothers. They end up selling Joseph into slavery. The point from these narratives should be clear—don’t play favorites!
Favoritism should have no place in Christian community because favoritism puts unequal value on people who have all been created by God, in the image of God. We have no right to assign more worth to certain people. Paul wrote, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:5). We are one in Christ. We belong to God and we belong to each other.
Friends, let’s be careful to make sure that we do not show partiality to anyone for any reason. No good ever comes from it. We are family! We have all been made by God and in the image of God so we are all valuable and have inherent worth. Who are we, as fellow image bearers of God, to differentiate and assign different values and worth to other image bearers? It is not right and it does not reflect the heart of God. Don’t play favorites!
Lord, I confess that I have shown partiality to others in the past. I have treated certain people as more important or more valuable than others. Please forgive me. Help me to see all people the way You do and treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve as image-bearers of God. Help me to remember that in You, we are all family. Amen.