Summary: Showing favoritism in our parenting is a mistake we will want to avoid.


A. I hope you are enjoying our series on Avoiding Life’s Biggest Mistakes; I sure am!

B. This Sunday and next Sunday, I want to address the subject – “Avoiding the Mistakes of Parenting.”

1. Today we are going to address the mistake of favoritism.

2. And, Lord willing, next week we will address the mistake of not disciplining our children.

C. Let me say, right up front, there are no perfect parents, other than God himself, and look at the trouble that he has with some of His kids.

1. Seriously, none of us are perfect.

2. I don’t stand before you today claiming to be the perfect parent who knows it all.

3. I’m just a humble servant of God trying to understand God’s will and do the best I can with that understanding.

D. I have a cartoon that shows a woman getting help from the Reference Librarian at her local library.

1. The Reference Librarian is pointing and telling the woman, “You want the book How to Have Perfect Children? It’s in the fiction section.”

2. Anyone who thinks that they can raise perfect children is living in a fictional world!

E. Nevertheless, there are principles and pitfalls in parenting that we should be aware of.

1. We can do our best to learn God’s principles and instructions and try to follow them.

2. And we can learn about the mistakes of parenting and try to avoid them. Right?

F. I believe we will discover today that showing favoritism in our parenting is a disaster that we will want to avoid.

1. Our good/bad example for today is Jacob, and his story is found in the book of Genesis.

I. The Story

A. It’s a little hard to know the best way to tell this story, because there really is a lot to the story.

B. Perhaps the best place to start the story is way back before Jacob was even born.

1. As you probably recall, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, and that God would give him the land of Canaan.

2. That promise came to Abraham when he was 75 years old.

3. The problem was - Abraham and Sarah had no children.

4. 25 years later, the Lord was gracious to Sarah, and she became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age. She was 90 and he was 100 years old!

5. They named the boy Isaac and brought him up in the Lord.

C. When Isaac was of marrying age, they sent a servant back to Abraham’s original homeland to find a wife for Isaac from among the people of God, rather than from among the Canaanites where they were living.

1. The servant was guided by God to the home of Bethuel, son of Nahor.

2. Nahor was Abraham’s grandfather.

3. Bethuel had a daughter named Rebekah and a brother named Laban.

4. Rebekah agreed to go with the servant of Abraham and become the wife of Abraham’s son Isaac.

D. Isaac was 40 years old when he and Rebekah were married.

1. Unfortunately, just like his father and mother, this couple was having trouble getting pregnant.

2. So, Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, and the Lord answered his prayer.

3. 20 years later, Rebekah became pregnant, and she was carrying not one son, but two!

4. The baby boys seemed to wrestle within her to the point that she asked the Lord what this meant.

5. God replied, “Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23)

E. When the two boys were born, they couldn’t have been any more different from each other.

1. The first born had red skin and a hairy body, so they named him Esau, which means “hairy.”

2. The second born came out with his hand grasping Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob, which literally means “he grasps the heel,” and figuratively means, “he deceives.”

3. The Bible tells us that the boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country.

4. Jacob was a quiet man, who stayed among the tents.

F. But here is where the real trouble began for the family – the Bible tells us in Gen. 25:28, “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

1. This is a terrible pitfall in parenting.

2. This divided affection produced an unhealthy atmosphere of competition, mistrust, disrespect, and lingering resentment.

3. The two sons of Isaac and Rebekah were the unwitting victims, and unfortunately, Jacob would repeat the same mistake in his own family many years later.

G. What happened next between Esau and Jacob was truly a tragedy.

1. Esau returned exhausted and famished from a hunting trip, and his brother, Jacob who had made a fine stew would only give him some if his brother sold him his birthright.

2. Esau said, “What good is my birthright to me if I’m about to die.” So he foolishly traded his birthright for a bowl of stew.

3. If that wasn’t bad enough, when Isaac was old and about to die he decided it was time to give the fatherly blessing to his first born.

4. So he sent Esau on a hunting trip to kill and prepare his favorite meal before he would bless him.

5. When Rebekah discovered what was about to take place, she manipulated things so that Jacob, her favorite ended up getting the fatherly blessing that Esau deserved as the first born.

6. How do you think Esau felt about that?

7. The Bible tells us that Esau held a grudge against Jacob and decided that after his father died, he would kill his brother. (27:41)

H. To protect Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah sent him off to Laban, Rebekah’s brother.

1. As it turns out, Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. The Bible says, “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful.” (29:17) Leah homely; Rachel hot!

2. While there, Jacob fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel and agreed to work for 7 years to be able to marry her.

3. I love the way the Bible says, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (Gen. 29:20)

4. Laban figured that he would be able to marry off his oldest daughter, Leah during that 7 years, but that did not happen.

5. So, on the wedding night, Laban tricked Jacob by switching the brides, and Jacob woke up the next morning next to Leah, rather than Rachel the one he loved.

6. So, the deceiver himself had been deceived.

7. Laban agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel immediately, but then he had to work another 7 years for him.

I. This was certainly a terrible thing for Laban to do to Jacob and to his daughters.

1. It threw them into a miserable competition for Jacob’s love and attention.

2. Leah immediately began to give Jacob sons, while Rachel remained barren.

3. So, Rachel gave her maidservant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife so that she could have children for her.

4. Then Leah did the same, giving her maidservant, Zilpah to Jacob as a wife.

5. Finally after Jacob had received 11 children, 10 boys and a girl, through Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, God opened Rachel’s womb and she gave birth to a son and named him Joseph.

6. Later, Rachel became pregnant again, and during her labor she had great difficulty, a son was born to her, and as she breathed her last she named him Ben-Oni, which means “son of my trouble.”

7. His father changed his name to Benjamin, which means “Son of my right hand.” A much better name, would you say?

J. Can you guess which of his 13 children Jacob favored the most? You guessed it – the two boys born through his beloved wife, Rachel.

1. The Bible says in Gen. 37:3, “Now Israel (another name for Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.”

2. We know that he loved him most because he was the first that Rachel had given him, but this attitude of favoritism sets in motion all kinds of problems for the family.

3. We are told in the verse before the one we just read that Joseph was a kind of tattletale.

4. The other boys had to work hard in the fields, while Joseph reported to his father what they were up to, and many times he brought a bad report about them.

5. How do you think they felt about Jacob giving Joseph such a fine robe?

6. The Bible says, “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Gen. 37:4)

7. This robe was not just something stylish from H & M, or Hollester, it was the kind of robe worn by royalty. It was not the kind of clothing one wore while working in the fields.

8. Jacob was sending a very clear message to everyone in the family – Joseph is the prince of this family, and the rights of the firstborn were being conferred on him.

K. If that were not enough, Joseph had a dream and couldn’t keep it to himself – he had to share it with his brothers.

1. The dream basically meant that everyone in his family would bow down to him.

2. How did that make his brothers feel?

3. The Bible says, “Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.” (vs. 5)

L. So, what did this obvious favoritism cause his brothers to do?

1. They decided to kill him.

2. One day when Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers out in the wilderness, they saw him coming from a distance, saw he was wearing that special robe, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

3. “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (vs. 19-20)

4. As you know, they didn’t end up killing him, but sold him into slavery.

5. The brothers returned with Joseph’s robe torn to shreds and covered with blood. Jacob assumed Joseph had been attacked by an animal. There was no C.S.I.

6. If you know the rest of the story, then you know that God was working through all these events, and in the end, God used Joseph to brings the Israelites into Egypt, and then He used Moses to eventually lead them out of Egypt and back to the Land of Promise.

M. What I want us to see from this Biblical story is the havoc that favoritism can reek in a family.

1. Look at the jealousy and hatred and cruelty it spawned.

2. Look at how it tore this family apart and brought such pain and sorrow into it.

3. It started with the favoritism of Isaac and Rebekah toward Esau and Jacob.

4. And it lead to the favoritism of Jacob toward Joseph.

5. Now that you’ve heard the story, let’s learn from their mistakes.

II. The Lesson

A. Some of us sitting here today, may be able to personally relate to favoritism in families.

1. Some may have been the favored one in your family.

2. Others may have been among the un-favored ones.

3. Wounds from this kind of dysfunction stay with us a long time.

4. Nadine Higgins, the former editor of Parent’s Voice, said, “I remember as a child all too well the painful distinctions my mother made between us girls and her beloved boys and it’s an experience that you don’t leave behind very easily. The ghost of her nagging disapproval, slaps, put downs and unfair house rules still live within me as an adult.”

5. I read a true story of an Asian woman who became a doctor in the United States.

a. There were 8 children in her family, but she was the only one who was unloved.

b. Her mother had died giving birth to her, and her brothers, sisters, and father could not forgive her.

c. This woman had a miserable childhood spent at boarding school, while the other children lived happily at home with their father and his new wife.

d. When her father died, she was the only one who inherited nothing.

e. Although she is successful now, this physician still battles feelings of rejection on a daily basis.

f. She still hurts because she has never felt the love of her family.

6. Maybe you can identify with these stories.

B. Certainly there is a solemn warning here to those of us who are parents and who have been blessed by God with more than one child. (If you have only one child, it’s obvious who is the favorite!)

1. As parents we are to love all our children equally, regardless of their temperament, their intellectual ability, their gifts, their challenges or whatever.

2. This is the case whether we have a traditional, intact family, or a blended family.

3. There are two things that often lead to showing favoritism.

4.. The first is that we might just mesh better with one of our children, more so than the others.

5. The second situation is that some kids are just easier to work with.

6. These are two very different situations, but we must guard against them both.

C. As for the children that we don’t seem to mesh as well with, we must simply acknowledge that we are just different from each other.

1. It is not a matter of you, the parent are “right,” and the child is “wrong;” just different.

2. No one who is honest says he likes everyone else in the world.

3. Even family members do not always come matched for compatibility.

4. If you value reading and quiet walks on the beach, a son who goes everywhere with a soccer ball bouncing off his feet and head may make you feel like strangling him some days.

5. Conversely, a son who enjoys painting and music might be a source of intense anxiety for a ball-playing dad.

6. So might an athletic daughter whose mom values traditional femininity.

7. All these differences reflect healthy variations in the human makeup.

8. We would be wise to encourage our children to develop their own unique strengths rather than to dwell on how different they are from us, or from each other.

9. Let’s strive to value each of our children for who they are, even though they may be very different from us.

D. The other situation may be a little harder to deal with.

1. It is not easy to keep from gravitating toward children who are more cooperative and easier to love than others.

2. The difficult and rebellious child is hard to get close to and show appreciation for.

3. This will require all the fortitude, prayer and persistence a parent can muster.

4. It will be important to treat each individual incident of behavior separately, rather than to think of a child as generally good or generally bad.

5. We must punish wrong behavior, but we must also praise and encourage good behavior.

6. Some days we may have to dig pretty deep to find a praiseworthy act, but it is worth the effort.

7. If all a child knows is criticism and punishment, he or she will not be motivated to change.

E. In summary, let me make these suggestions:

1. We must never tell a child that we love them more than any of our other children. We must be careful not to even imply it.

a. Interestingly, each of our children is likely to think that we love the other children more anyway.

b. The agreeable ones will see us spending extra time and effort on the not-so-agreeable ones, and the difficult children will notice us enjoying the company of the harmonious ones, so they both might conclude we love the others more than we love them.

c. All our children need the assurance of our love.

2. Another thing to watch out for – We should never compare our children with each other, nor allow them to compare themselves with each other.

a. Words like, “If only you were like your sister, or your brother…” should never come out of our mouths.

3. One final suggestion – It is okay to treat our children differently, because they are different.

a. Different is not the same as unfair, or favoritism.

4. Our goal must be to love and treat our children as unique and precious individuals.

F. I hope and pray that this lesson will be a blessing for our families.

1. Parents, let’s beware of showing favoritism. If we need to, then repent.

2. Children, if you have been treated unfairly and are bitter or angry, then you need God’s healing.

3. One thing we can learn today, is that God works through imperfect parents and children to accomplish His Will. Through wounded and broken people like us, He can change the world!