This may well be the best known story in the Old Testament. Joseph and his technicolour dreamcoat! As we search in Scripture to find good examples to follow and sins to avoid, this is definitely
A sin to avoid – favouritism
We find the worst possible example of favouritism in Gen 37:3-4 v3 Now Israel 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.
Favouritism means treating one person or a particular group of people in ways you should treat all people. That is exactly what happened when Jacob (also called Israel) treated his favourite son Joseph differently from his brothers. No wonder this provoked all Jacob’s other sons to jealousy and anger.
v4. 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.
Jacob owed ALL his sons the same love and affection – they should have ALL been given multicoloured coats. But they weren’t/ So Jacob was being unfair to the others when he singled Joseph out for special treatment.
Some people accuse the God of the Old Testament of favouritism because He was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the God of the nation of Israel.
We need to be clear: God shows no favouritism
Some people say, surely having a “chosen people”, a special people is exactly that – favouritism! God wasn’t being fair to everyone else. That understanding is mistaken.
Jacob owed all of his sons equal treatment. But God doesn’t owe any human beings ANYthing – If we got what was FAIR and what we deserved none of us would receive anything from God except punishment and judgement! Choosing a special people was not an act of favouritism but an act of mercy, an act of grace.
Romans 2:5-11 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done”. 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism .
SO SAYS Romans 2:11 God does not show favouritism! In all the ways He deals with human beings God is ALWAYS impartial – always fair. God has no favourites!! God is no respecter of persons!
Acts 10:34-35 34 ¶ Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
God does not show favouritism. God treats everybody fairly and equally. There’s a wonderful story about a Chicago bank that once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young Bostonian being considered for employment. The Boston investment house could not say enough about the young man. His father, they wrote, was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowell. Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys, and other of Boston’s first families. His recommendation was given without hesitation. Several days later, the Chicago bank sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read: “We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just for work.”
God is no respecter of persons, but accepts those from every family, nation, and race who fear Him and work for His kingdom (Acts 10:34-35).
Favouritism – a sin to avoid! The stories of the Old Testament are often so down to earth and practical. But what lessons are there for us in this story of how Jacob spoiled Joseph?
There should be NO favouritism in the family
Warning to us as individuals, especially as PARENTS. If we treat one child differently from the others all we will get is jealousy and trouble. And there’s a lesson there too for teachers / pastors / youth workers! Be fair! Treat all your children equally, all your pupils according to the same standards. That doesn’t always mean treating them the SAME – but always fairly!
There should be NO favouritism in society
A warning against injustice in society. There are 26 specific references to favouritism or partiality in the Bible and almost 600 verses which talk about justice and injustice in society:
The way Jacob treated Joseph is a clear example of why partiality and favouritism, injustice and unfairness can be so damaging. So it/ss no surprise that the Jewish Law is full of warnings against favouritism.
Deut 10:17-18, 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
2 Chron 19:5-7 5 ¶ He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. 6 He told them, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. 7 Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”
Lev 19:15 “`Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.
Deut 1:16-17a, And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. 17 Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God.
There are so many instances of favouritism and injustice even in British society. When the judges and the law courts treat people differently depending on their upbringing or their education, that is injustice. When the treatment a person gets in their workplace depends on the colour of their skin, or on their gender, there is injustice. When the quality of health care depends not upon a person’s need but upon how rich they are, that is injustice. When people who have disabilities suffer discrimination, there is injustice. But as God’s people, as Christians, we should be working for justice in society. We should be praying against injustice. We should be a prophetic voice against unfairness. And the New Testament also carries its warnings!
Eph 6:9 (for employers?) 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten
them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.
1 Tim 5:21 for pastors in the context of church leadership and church discipline:- 21 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 favouritism.
tension as minister: difficulty of forming close friendships
Christians should be working and even fighting for justice and impartiality in every area of society – starting in the church:
NO favouritism in the church
Jacob and Joseph warns us about
How we treat newcomers and visitors coming in to the church
James 2:1-4, 8-9 1 ¶ My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his autobiography that during his student days he was interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he went to a church to see the minister and ask for instruction on the way of salvation and other Christian doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back.
“If Christians have caste differences also,” Gandhi wrote, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” –
As a church we must be very careful to welcome all visitors and guests equally – NO FAVOURITISM!
How we treat other Christians
The warnings against favouritism affect how we treat Christians of other denominations and other congregations too. And it affects how we treat “other” Christians in our own Church – other groups in “OUR” church
1 Corinthians 3:3-7 3: You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5 ¶ What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Dangers of division are always there: – Old and young : established Christians and newer Christians: traditional Christians and “spirit-filled” Christians: those “in the know” about church procedures and those who havent a clue about our weird Baptist ways of doing things: there should be NO favouritism no partiality, no cliques, no party spirit, no “in-crowds”!
A story from the animal kingdom. When a group of wild horses face attack, they stand in a circle facing each other and, with their back legs, kick out at the enemy. But donkeys do just the opposite; they face the enemy and kick each other! Favouritism turns Christians into donkeys!
God has no favourites – nor should we! No favouritism within our families. No favouritism in society. No favouritism in the Church. No favouritism between Christians. Remember the lurking dangers of technicolour dreamcoats! Favouritism is definitely a sin to avoid.