What is a biblical view of favoritism?

Favoritism is showing a bias or partiality for one person or people group over another, even when they have equal claims. The Bible makes it clear that God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11). Since all human beings were created in His image, neither should we practice favoritism. Rather, the Bible instructs us to "show no partiality" (James 2:1).

God has created all people equal in worth. A person's physical appearance, gender, possessions, skills, intelligence level, or even religious affiliation do not determine his/her value. Treating people differently based on things like their ethnicity, social status, or wealth is wrong. The Old Testament specifies that in legal situations, "You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15; see also Exodus 23:2–3). God cannot be bribed and shows no partiality (Deuteronomy 10:17). He does not show favoritism but remains equally just to all (Job 34:19). We, too, are called to treat all people with dignity and respect, as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27).

In the New Testament, Paul warned Timothy not to show favoritism: "… keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality" (1 Timothy 5:21). The book of James equates favoritism to sin, because God has commanded us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (James 2:1–9). Jesus is our perfect example of not showing favoritism. He treated all who came to Him with the same level of equality—from the poor crippled man who could not help himself into the healing pool (John 5:5–9) to Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector (Luke 19:1–10).

Early in his ministry the apostle Peter was hesitant to minister to the Gentiles, or non-Jews. But after God gave Peter a vision and Peter interacted with the Gentile Cornelius, he recognized the error of his bias: "So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him’" (Acts 10:34–35). Paul similarly told the church in Galatia: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27–28). In Christ, we are all of equal worth; favoritism is inappropriate.

Favoritism was a struggle in the early church and is still a struggle today. Showing partiality seems to come naturally to our fallen natures. We need to stay aware and be conscientious to keep ourselves in check about this issue. God has loved us and given us the right to be His children through Jesus Christ, which means we are to love others as He has loved us (1 John 4:7–11). We need to ask the Lord to help us to love and treat others as equally worthy image-bearers and without favoritism, showing them His love indiscriminately.

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