Summary: #7 in the Book of James Series deals with favoritism in the church.
My Favorite Church Member
#7 in the Book of James Series
By Pastor Jim May
All of us have favorites. We have our favorite ice cream, our favorite food, our favorite hobby and even our favorite brand of automobiles. Favoritism is everywhere; in the job place, proven by the statement: “It’s not what you know, but who you know, that really matters when you look for a job.” In our own children there is often favoritism. “Johnny, why can’t you be like your brother Joe?” Favoritism often devolves into nepotism (family) and cronyism (friends) in organizations and businesses, and it is really hard to break into the inner circle when this is taking place.
God knew of our potential for playing favorites and so he included a prime example of favoritism in the Bible so that through this example we could learn that favoritism can be the cause of a lot of suffering and pain that could last for a lifetime.
Genesis 37:3-4, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him."
The favoritism that Jacob showed caused hatred, envy and strife within his own family, and it eventually led to over 20 years of pain before God brought them to the place where all of the hurt feelings could be healed.
How about in your own life, or your own family? Has favoritism ever been an issue? Whether it is true or just perceived as favoritism, we often find families at odds with one another over how children or grandchildren are treated. If you do something for one, then you better do it for all, or someone is going to get their feelings hurt. That’s just the way it is.
If there was one place in the world that we could expect no one to show favoritism, it’s the church, right? Wrong – I hate to admit it, but favoritism often finds its way into the church too. I hope that we do not show favoritism to anyone above the rest of you, but even making that statement itself proves that its possible.
Favoritism in the church isn’t hard to find because we all have certain people that we relate to more than others. Some people are easier to talk to. You can joke around with them and they don’t get angry. Some people are more helpful than others, and we naturally tend draw closer to those who are hard workers. We are all different people, with different personalities, but with one single purpose. While we are pursuing that purpose of preaching the gospel and building a church, we will always tend to get closer to people who think like we do and who have an agreeable personality. After all, nobody likes to hang out with negative people and people who grate on your nerves. That statement alone creates the groundwork for favoritism.
Favoritism in the church is dangerous, it’s harmful and it can have dire eternal consequences if it isn’t removed from our midst. There are some people who may be hurt and never enter the church again. Our favoritism can cause them to lose their very soul.
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his days as a student he read the Gospels from the Christian Bible seriously and had considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go back and worship with his own people of the Hindu faith.
Mahatma Gandhi left the church that morning, disappointed and disillusioned at what he had experienced. He finally concluded that Christianity was not a religion that he could agree with because Christians were not truly peaceful people. He decided never to return to a Christian church again. "If Christians have caste differences and play favoritism, he said, "Then I might as well remain a Hindu."
Acts 10:34, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" We must never forget that. God looks at all men the same, rich or poor, powerful or ordinary – it’s all the same with God.
Peter Cartwright, a 19th century circuit-riding Methodist preacher, was an uncompromising man when it came to his preaching. One Sunday morning when he was getting ready to preach, he was told that General Andrew Jackson was in the congregation. He was warned not to say anything out of line lest Jackson would be offended.