Favoritism is Wrong

Bob RoaneLoving and Trusting God, Service, Wise living

They said to Jesus: Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth….The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (Luke 20:21; James 3:17-18)

Lessons from 9/11

On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and attacked The World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and a site in Pennsylvania. These attacks caused the deaths of 2,996 people, including 2,977 victims and 19 hijackers who committed murder-suicide. Thousands more were injured.

The mayor of New York City commented about the love and impartiality that first responders showed that day. When everybody was running out of the Twin Towers, the police, firefighters, and EMS people were running in. They didn’t ask how many blacks, whites, or Jews were there. Didn’t ask which ones were making $400,000 a year or $24,000. They didn’t show favoritism to the bosses and neglect the lower-level folks. When we’re saving lives, they’re all precious. And that’s how we’re supposed to live all the time. The mayor said: “I confess I haven’t always lived this way. But I’m convinced that God wants us to do it. He wants us to value every human being the way He does.”

Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, said, “The world we live in is falling apart before our eyes. We are God’s only representatives on the planet and simply pick and choose who needs help. They all need help and the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. They all need to be rescued from the horror of an eternity apart from God.”1

This post builds on Favoritism Forbidden.

Favoritism Is Contrary to the Lord’s Values

James 2:1-12 is a strong passage in the New Testament describing church members who gave special treatment to rich people. They valued the “haves” more than the “have-nots” and preferred having wealthy people join their church instead of poor ones. They were acting like the secular world, not like the Kingdom of Christ. They treated poor believers dispespectfully. So God the Holy Spirit sent James to rebuke and correct them (and us!):

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism….Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?”2 Our values must match the Lord’s values.

John MacArthur said that we tend to put everyone in some kind of stratified category, higher or lower than other people. It has to do with their looks, clothes, cars, houses, education, etc. Sometimes it has to do with their race, social status, or political views. MacArthur said: “All of those things with God are non-issues, not significant, and mean absolutely nothing to Him.”3

Prejudice builds walls, but love for God and our neighbors breaks them down. Richard DeHaan wrote: All those who know and love the Lord must show by word and deed, that we will not discriminate, but welcome all kinds of people who need our help.

Church Leaders Especially Must Not Show Favoritism

Timothy was a young pastor in New Testament times. The Holy Spirit sent the Apostle Paul to command Timothy, “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”4 Leaders must not prejudge matters in favor of their pals, despite the facts. Leaders must be fair and impartial and not sidestep Scripture. Paul appeals to God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels (not Satan and other fallen angels) to underscore the evil of favoritism.5

The Lord says similar things in the Older Testament: “Select from the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten….Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”6

Church leaders have a high privilege of serving under Christ and we must show ourselves worthy of every church member’s respect. We must be trusted to place the honor of Jesus above ourselves and our friends. We must choose fairness over favoritism, Christian love over cronysim.

Brene Brown and The Bible

Casandra Brené Brown is an American professor, sociologist, and author. She urges us to embrace our own brokenness, with the reality that we are not alone in it. We are or easily could be just one step away from the broken people all around us. Brown says: We are like “those people” we may look down on. Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being “those people,” the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our children play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.7

If we have been blessed by God (and we have) and spared from the troubles others have suffered, let’s never be proud. Let’s be humble before the Lord and other people, profoundly grateful, and eager to show Jesus’ love toward others who have been less outwardly blessed than we are.

Scripture says: All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise….He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Gal 3:27-29; Micah 6:8)

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Jim Cymbala, You Were Made for More, p. 94-96.     2 James 2:1,5-6.    3 “The Evil of Favoritism in the Church” (3 parts), GraceToYou.org.     4 1 Tim 5:21.     5 NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.     6 Ex 18:21-22; 2 Chron 19:6-7.     7 Adapted from Brene Brown’s TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability.”