Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Showing Personal Favoritism

Playing favorites is never a good idea. It causes problems such as resentment and jealousy. It can cause an individual to exalt another in an unhealthy way, and lead to a choosing of a man over truth.

Isaac and Rebekah learned the foolishness of personal favoritism in consequence of their playing the favorite with their sons. “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28). Because of the deception of Rebekah and Jacob, she was forced to send her favorite son away to save his life.

Jacob should have learned the lesson, but was himself guilty of showing favoritism among his own sons. He preferred Joseph above all his other sons. “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors” (Genesis 37:3). His favoritism led to his other sons’ jealous schemes; first to have Joseph killed, and later to have him sold as a slave.

The Corinthian Christians were guilty of something similar. They all had their favorite teacher. “…each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul clearly charged them with being worldly minded in their preferences, and criticized the division it caused. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:4)

James wrote about personal favoritism when he told his audience, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). In particular, some at that time were guilty of showing favoritism toward the rich. James first establishes that such favoritism is illogical. Why in the world would they prefer those who are most likely to do harm? “Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 2:6-7). He also clearly calls such favoritism, sin. “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

There are a number of areas today where we may be guilty of showing personal favoritism:

  • With regard to the rich. James’ readers were not the only ones to have their heads turned by money. We too can become “judges with evil thoughts”, having “dishonored the poor man.” (vss. 4, 6).
  • With regard to our children. Esau was a “skillful hunter”, while Jacob was “a mild man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27). It is common to see a father or mother prefer one child above another because of athletic prowess, beauty or intelligence. While some children are more gifted than others, the souls of all are precious. There is nothing more sad than to see a child neglected in this way. Parents who are so guilty should be ashamed. They truly have become “judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4).
  • With regard to brethren. While it may be true that I have an affinity for some brethren above others, (I may have mor in common with them, or have similar personality traits), it is never appropriate for me to be dismissive of any brother or sister in Christ. It seems that the Corinthians had this problem. In addition to the preference of one teacher above another, as mentioned in the text, this caused problems with the observation of the Lords’ supper. “For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another id drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:21). The main problem with favorites is the way that the “non-favorites” are treated.
    With regard to false teachers. We must be careful to not elevate the man above the message. As Paul wrote, “So then, neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). It doesn’t matter how long we’ve known a man, how faithful he may have been in his teaching, how deep our loyalties and friendship with him may lie, we must not exalt any man above the Word of God. And, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that any man is above sin. We all may fall.

Again, the showing of favoritism is inappropriate. Doing so indicates poor judgment, and can be in itself sinful. The principle of love precludes our being dismissive of the needs and welfare of any man. Christ did not show partiality in dying for all men … nor should we.