What Happens in Relationships When There is Favoritism?

Rip and me at the lake

You’re walking in the grocery store and see someone you know and immediately recall their wealthy lifestyle. So, you keep walking toward them hoping for an encounter. Or, let’s say you look across a room and see someone who has influence, position of power, money, possessions, or they simply have something/someone you want.  So, you smile and approach them and begin to do what you even pride yourself in doing well – ‘get along with them.’   You talk about things they are interested in and you know will bring you to a common ground. You make them laugh. Get on their good side. Compliment. Offer to help them. Do your best to show them what a ‘good person’ you are, while making sure they feel highly esteemed by what you say and in how you treat them. After all, if you can win them over, you are already imagining how your own life can personally benefit by the relationship. So, you lay it on thick in doing the best you can in giving a good convincing impression that you are being genuine. Truth be told, you are. Kissing up is genuinely how you approach certain people in gaining what you ultimately want in the connection with them – to personally benefit and to get what you want. Ultimately, to have control. Control of your own world in orchestrating people and things to your advantage.

FYI – Kissing up is a modern-day expression, but is actually described in the Bible using one word: deception  

A few days later you’re walking in the same grocery store and see someone you view as. let’s just say, misfortunate. You discern them as needy and living a life-style that is less desirable to you. And honestly, you’ve already discerned that spending time with them in cultivating a relationship would not benefit your life in any way; especially if they have physical needs or are going through a season of hardship. You want to surround yourself with people who simply ‘have it together’ and they clearly have challenges you personally don’t want to be involved in.  So, you quickly find another aisle to help you avoid any encounter. And if you do happen to run into them, you will do what you do – smile and pour on the conversation that will show them what an outstanding human being you are.  And when you walk away, you emotionally pat yourself on the back for ‘being such a good person,‘ because after all, you appeared to care about them, right? You were kind. You listened. But you had no intentions in trying to cultivate any relationship with someone ‘like that.’ The ‘like that’ folks are either poor or appear to be in the less-than category financially. Or they are of another race. Of another social status. Of another political party. Or they are someone you can only see through the lens of their past mistakes and you just soon keep it that way.

All these scenarios sound rather cruel and harsh to even imply, don’t they? While at the same time…as we read them, we either see ourselves or someone we know because the truth be told – showing favoritism, prejudice, and snobbery are so real in our world today, as they were real in the day James wrote chapter 2 in our Bible. For some of you reading this, you can’t imagine thinking this way or having either attitude. And to you, I’ll just say that if while reading both scenarios you simply couldn’t relate, then that is  because you have experienced the humbling hand of God in teaching you this very important life principle –

Christians are not to show favoritism, partiality or prejudice. Period. 

But our world sure screams a different principle, doesn’t it? That it’s all in ‘who you know” and “what you have.” And what really is heartbreaking is the degree of “using people” for “personal gain.” We see that everywhere on social media.

When we think of favoritism we think of someone making a decision and taking an action in favoring someone over someone else.  It’s very similar to discrimination and can be based on a person’s social class, the size of their bank accounts, what they drive, what they wear, their career, their influence, their popularity, etc.

But if we show favoritism or prejudice or snobbery is it really that wrong? Does the Bible actually tell us that showing any of those attitudes is blatant sin?  And is there a time and place when we should show favoritism?  And what about God? When it comes to people, does he have favorites?  I want us to go to these two places together and see just what the bible has to say about favoritism, prejudice, discrimination, biases, and snobbery.

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Let’s start with the question: Is the Bible clear on the topic of  favoritism?

The answer is yes: The Bible is clear that favoritism is not God’s will for our lives. And here’s why….

First, favoritism is incompatible with God’s nature: “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).  After reading that one verse, we seriously need to write it on an index card and memorize it. That one little verse is a power-packed principle for us if we are going to respect God. We need to take Ephesians 6:9 to heart as well, that tells us that ALL are equal before Him. Ephesians 6:9 says, “There is no favoritism with him.” Even when He disciplines, He doesn’t bring favoritism or bias into His judgements.  Colossians 3:25 teaches us this: “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”

Second, the Bible teaches Christians to not show favoritism: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism” (James 2:1). The context concerns the treatment of rich and poor in the church. James points out that treating someone differently based on his financial status or how he is dressed is wrong.

Why do you believe the Christians in James’ community were doing this? Why were they treating the rich one way and treating the poor another? Think on this for a moment. Do you think they saw an opportunity to personally benefit? Do you think they may have reasoned that the wealth of a person meant they knew some secret to success? Give this some real thought…and ask yourself, when you are around someone with wealth, with nice possessions, or they have what you would call some prestigiousness about them, do you treat them any differently than you do someone who doesn’t possess or have claim to any of those things?

Third, the Bible calls favoritism sin: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:8-9). Favoritism is a serious offense against God’s call to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

(**What you are going to read next is not my personal view or thoughts. I am sharing from a past experience.)

A man once told me that he’d never hire an overweight person to work in his place of business. When I asked him why that was the case, he said that he believed overweight people were actually undisciplined and sloppy in personal habits and hygiene, and were obviously lacking in self-control. He went on to say, “I could never work with someone overweight.” He stereotyped all overweight people as not beneficial to the work environment. I can remember feeling in my stomach such a nausea that came over me. I was disgusted by his attitude and sorrowed to the core because I not only heard what he said, but I was the one in the position to ‘screen’ who turned in applications for the position. Nothing broke my heart more than to know I was expected to place an application in the garbage after discovering their height and weight.

Needless to say, I didn’t work in that position long. I couldn’t. Because I knew every ounce of his perspective was awfully sinful. I knew that overweight and underweight people alike are fully equipped with skills, talents and abilities. And that there is NEVER to be any discrimination against anyone based on their race, their size, their social status, or they personal net worth.  I don’t see with color discrimination. I never have. I just don’t see it…but I see people’s eyes, their smiles, their attitudes, their love for certain hobbies, I see their talents and strengths. I see when they are hurting or broken. I see pain and I see joy! Bottom line – I see human beings of all race created in the image of God! In no way am I trying to elevate myself in telling you this, but I am trying to communicate something that is so real IN me that only God and His Holy Spirit could be responsible for fanning this conviction into flame! Now, when I am exposed to or encounter the spirit of favoritism, the spirit of prejudice, the spirit of discrimination or snobbery, I know it. It’s like someone walking you into a Mexican restaurant blindfolded and then asking you, “Where you are?” You know exactly where you are! You smell it! A Mexican restaurant has that aroma to it, as so do those attitudes. There is a stench about them, and only by the grace of God, I can smell ’em a mile away! No, not a literal stench, but I’m only using that as an analogy to just how recognizable these attitudes can be discerned.  I’m not judging, I’m practicing the calling in being a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Jesus not only recognized and opposed such attitudes, but He called them out by asserting a name on them, “hypocrites!”

When I saw in that place of business someone driving up in a nice vehicle wearing brand name clothes and accessories and were given the red carpet treatment while talking about their personal career aspirations and luxurious hobbies, versus someone driving up in an old and obviously well-used vehicle and not wearing a single brand named item, and they were asked to sit in the chair without any casual words spoken – just what had to be said to wrap up the matters at hand – well, I remember just crying. Because I wanted to go in there and pour on the whole-hearted attention! I wanted to bathe them in encouragement and love!  I wanted to show both, (the wealthy and the poor), the love of Christ and not the flatteries of man.  Do you understand what I’m trying to say? It shouldn’t matter. But y’all, let’s be honest about it…we see that unfortunately it does matter for some folks. They so want control that their relational and personal decisions are often times shaped by favoritism and prejudice and discrimination.

I have something to tell you that is rather personal, but hang with me to the end of this post, ok? Keep reading on through, but when you get to the end…there is something I want to tell you that may help us all even more to understand the damage and wounds that favoritism can cause.

Fourth, church leaders are especially commanded not to show partiality or favoritism. Paul commanded Timothy, (and at the time he was a young church leader), “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” (1 Timothy 5:21).

Fifth, it can be a challenge not showing favoritism. Even Christ’s disciples and those close to Him struggled with showing partiality toward people who were like them and discrimination toward those who were not like them. When the apostle Peter was first called to minister to non-Jewish people, (the Gentiles), he was more than hesitant, but he later confessed, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34).

The fact that James specifically addresses the sin of favoritism implies that this was a common problem within the early church. In James’ day we find within the Christian community all people:

The rich and the poor

The Jew and the Gentile

The religious leader and the local fisherman

The governmental leader and the produce farmer

The procurator and the baker

The ruler and the homemaker

The soldier and the seamstress

The scribe and the silversmith

The tax collector and the tent maker

The priest and the potter

The prophet and the planter

The carpenter and the cupbearer

The sire and the shepherd

When you look at that list, you see how the 1st Christian community in Jerusalem had such extremes of lifestyle, of purpose and calling, in responsibilities, etc. James wrote to the entire Christian community in addressing a very real problem that was causing strife, quarreling and division when he wrote:

My fellow believers, do not practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of partiality [toward people—show no favoritism, no prejudice, no snobbery]. For if a man comes into your [a]meeting place [b]wearing a gold ring and [c]fine clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in, and you pay special attention to the one who wears the [d]fine clothes, and say to him, “You sit here in this good seat,” and you tell the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down [on the floor] by my footstool,” have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges with wrong motives? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and [as believers to be] heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you [in contrast] have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress and exploit you, and personally drag you into the courts of law? Do they not blaspheme the [e]precious name [of Christ] by which you are called?

But let’s go to the second question: Did and does God have favorites?

Whether or not God has favorites is a tricky question because it is based upon our human understanding of favoritism, which usually means unfair treatment of anyone who is not favored. To completely understand the answer, we have to start with the truth that God loves everyone because every human being is created in His image (John 3:16; Lamentations 3:22–23; Genesis 1:26).

When we think of favoritism, we imagine a place of higher status and less responsibility. But God’s favor often comes with added duties and more difficult challenges….Look at Jesus – He was the embodiment of everything God favors. (e.g., Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17; 12:18; Luke 9:35). God chose prophets and kings for His own sovereign reasons (Exodus 33:17; Daniel 10:11; 1 Samuel 2:26). God chose Solomon from all of David’s sons to become the next king (1 Chronicles 28:5–6). He gifted him in wealth, in popularity, and in wisdom (1 Kings 5:12).

However, many of those whom God favored were persecuted and suffered hardship because of the mantle of responsibility God placed upon them.

The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with these words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). We have no further record as to why Mary was chosen, but the result of God’s favor upon her was that she had to bear great sorrow and difficulty as the mother of the Messiah. The “sword” would “pierce her soul” (Luke 2:35).

So is God’s favor arbitrary? Do our choices have any impact on whether we are among His favorites? Isaiah 66:2 says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

God wants to show us all His favor, but in His sovereign knowledge, He chooses some for special assignment and blessing. When God gave Moses instructions about building the tabernacle, He named two men that He had specifically chosen to do the artistic work. (Exodus 31:1–4, 6). Sometimes, God chooses people because He has gifted them in special ways for special service. As they fulfill the calling He placed on their lives, they find favor with Him (Exodus 33:13).

God is not limited in His favor. He does not rank us in order of importance, nor is His favor something we must compete with one another to earn.

Every child of God who comes to Him through faith in Jesus Christ has the favor of God. Psalm 5:12 says, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” It is not our own righteousness that earns us favor; we are declared righteous through the cleansing of our sins by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21). As we grow in faith and seek to please Him, God demonstrates His favor by drawing near to us (James 4:8).

God’s favorites are His children, purchased through the blood of His Son (John 1:12).

As we honor Jesus, God’s favor follows us. That favor may manifest itself through greater responsibility, blessing, or even suffering for His sake (Acts 5:41).

The reward of His favor is His promise that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). ***www.gotquestions.org

So, here’s what I want to tell you that’s rather personal ….

It wasn’t that long ago, probably around the first of January of 2020, that I was texting with my counselor. He’s a wise discerner for sure, and at one point he said something to me and the second I read it, I broke into tears. I sat on our family room sofa and squalled like a baby and I honestly didn’t know why…

This is what he texted to me,

Lisa, there isn’t a mean bone in your body.”

I whispered to myself,

“What?”

I remember doing that because I didn’t expect it. I read it again. But this time I was reading it realizing two things: 1) who was telling me this…someone I highly respected and trusted,  and 2) he wouldn’t be telling me this if he hadn’t discerned it to be true.

I’m telling you, tears welled up in my eyes so thick that I could hardly read it anymore. I just sat there. I read it over and over again.

Then I finally asked him,

Why is what you just said making me cry?

And he replied back to me saying,

That’s what grief looks like.”

My soul was grieving.  There had been experiences in my life where THAT was the message being hurled at me. Because I didn’t do this or that or because of how I did this or that, it would be twisted to make me out to be quite a mean or uncaring person. And I’d take it. I didn’t know how to say, “No, that’s true of myself. I am not who you want to make me out to be.” I didn’t know how to stand up for myself.  I had this belief that no matter what, show respect by just coming into agreement. Just don’t rock the boat of discord…be the peacemaker and bring things to a calming end. In the meantime, I never knew what to do with the hurt that always remained from the slaps of accusations and being told things about myself that I knew simply were not true. So, I’d suppress them as righteously as I knew how – pray and get busy doing things that made other people happy.

But when the January text came, I knew the Lord Himself was telling me,

“This is who you are, Lisa. It’s how I see you. And that is enough. What I think about you is all you need.”

So why did I put a photo of me and Rip on a blog about favoritism? Well, do you know what his real name is? Rip’s birth name?  It’s  …  James Randall Rippy.  That’s right! His first name is JAMES!!  He shares in the same name as Jesus’ brother and he shares in his deep convictions of showing no favoritism!  If anyone knows my husband, they know he is a man who has no clue on God’s green earth how to show favoritism, prejudice or snobbery. He loves all people the same! Treats all people the same!

So, whoever you are reading this, we deeply love you! And we mean it!

Most Sincerely,

Lisa & Rip

Lisa Rippy

I’m Lisa Rippy, a happily married woman to my wonderful Rip. We have 5 children and we live right outside of Madison, MS. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a love for all things “homey” from decorating, simplifying, remodeling, organizing and simply turning a house into a "Home Sweet Home." My passion is helping families live the life they long for in the interior of their hearts and homes. It all requires thought, planning and work that Rip and I both love to do! But if there is anything at all I can do to help you and your home life, please reach out to me. Nothing would thrill me more than to inspire YOUR heart and home!

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