Playing Favorites by Karen Ehman
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James 2:1 (NIV)
Parenting has many unspoken and logical rules.
For example, don’t reward a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum by giving her the new toy she’s screaming for in the middle of the department store. Don’t let a short-on-sleep child skip a much-needed nap before an evening event where he needs to be on his best behavior. And — probably one of the age-old classics — when it comes to your children, do not play favorites. Ever. Never ever.
Although we as moms know we shouldn’t play favorites, admittedly sometimes it’s difficult. We might get along better with one of our children. Or we share more common interests and passions. Or more commonly it’s this scenario: One of our kids is so much like us that it drives us absolutely nuts. That has sure been the case with me!
Sometimes it was easier to speak kindly to one child who is very neat than to the other two who were more prone to be messy. I tended to snap at them more because their rooms were usually disasters, while my middle son’s room was impeccable, with all his shirts color-coded and spaced exactly 1-inch apart in his closet.
There’s a woman in the Old Testament who also broke that last parental rule of thumb. She not only preferred one youngster over the other, her partisan attitude lead to devious actions. This resulted in major familial mayhem that not only affected her immediate family, but had consequences for generations to follow. (See Genesis 25-27.)
Rebekah was married to Isaac. She and the Mr. had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first twin to appear from the womb, but Jacob quickly became Rebekah’s favorite. When the boys grew older, and on a day Esau was particularly famished, Jacob duped his older brother into selling his birthright for a simple bowl of lentil stew.
Later, when their father lay dying with his eyesight nearly gone, Rebekah helped Jacob steal something yet again. She conspired with him to trick Isaac into pronouncing a blessing over Jacob instead of over Esau, thereby seizing the blessing intended for the firstborn. Rebekah’s deception caused animosity between the brothers that continued for years.
It’s not just Rebekah and sons where we learn playing favorites is an unwise thing to do. Our key verse in James 2:1 urges, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James goes on to caution us to not show preferential treatment to someone just because they’re rich or important. Instead, we are to treat people in a consistent manner, regardless of their status in society.
When we refuse to play favorites — either with our offspring, coworkers or strangers — we model how God treats us to a watching world. He loves us equally and offers us each the same incredible gift — the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
Galatians 3:26-28 tells us, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for 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” (NIV).
When it comes to our relationships, let’s resist being a Rebekah and refuse to play favorites. If we’re prayerful and careful as we relate to others, we can avoid the tendency to treat them in an unequal manner. And as we parent our children, God can impart a love for each of our children that’s special and unique, not preferential.
We won’t be playing favorites. We’ll be loving profusely — and saving ourselves and our descendants from strife as well.
Father, forgive me for the times I have shown favoritism. May I seek to love and treat others equally — especially my children. I want to accurately reflect Your love for us to a watching world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 2:11, “There is no favoritism with God.” (HCSB) Leviticus 19:15b, “Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.” (HCSB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you ever been tempted to play favorites with someone? Have you given into this temptation? If so, what happened? What factors do you think go into your tendency to be drawn more to one person (or child) than another? Take this situation to God today, asking Him to help you show love lavishly, equally to all.
© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org