By Lynette Kittle, Crosswalk.com
Exposing the Sin of Partiality
By Lynette Kittle
“But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” - James 2:9
Are you showing partiality to people? If so, are you aware you’re sinning? Most of us might be quick to respond with, “No, I don’t show favoritism.” But think about it. when given the opportunity to choose, do we give gifts to people we believe deserve them over others who seem less deserving? Are we more willing to help people who we believe are worthy of being helped over those we deem less worthy?
Digging even deeper, do we give our offerings to those we like better than others rather than asking God where to give and following His leading over our own? Likewise, how do we decide whether to donate to someone’s mission trip or not? What criteria do we base our generosity on? Even deeper, when it comes to prayer, do we pray more for people we believe deserve our prayer time and efforts over those who seem beyond hope?
How Does God Feel about It?
Although many believers may not consider favoritism a serious issue or something to be dealt with, God makes it clear that showing partiality towards people is not okay. It might be a hard concept for us to grasp because, as believers, we may think He does because of various passages in the Bible where God gives favor. But God distinguishes between His giving favor and His showing favoritism, so setting this misconception aside, His word tells us, “For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).
It’s challenging, too, trying to convince some Christians it’s not a good thing because some don’t even consider showing partiality sinful or view it as doing anything particularly wrong. There are believers, too, who even think it’s a wise and discerning practice, justifying favoring some individuals over others, seeing certain persons as more deserving and responsible for receiving their kindness, generosity, helpfulness, and more.
Churches Who Play Favorites
Who hasn’t seen favoritism? Sadly, partiality is widespread not only out in the world but in many churches. Yet James 2:1-4 addresses it within the Church, revealing the sinfulness behind it.
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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.’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Christians in Authority Who Play Favorites
God emphasizes in Ephesians 6:7-9 how He looks at showing partiality between people, especially in situations where some may believe they’re justified in treating individuals differently because of their various positions in life. Sadly there are Christian leaders, bosses, and parents who leave their Christianity at the door, believing they are in the right to play favorites at home or work. But God calls us all to serve one another, regardless of rank or position in life.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 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 favoritism with Him” (Ephesians 6:7-9).
Unfortunately, many humans, including Christians, struggle with wanting to feel more important than others. Rooted in sin, Philippians 2:3 urges us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves."
So how do we live a life free from partiality? Scripture provides direction on how to overcome the tendency to play favorites.
Ask God for direction. When tempted, look to God for help. Proverbs 3:5,6 urges, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Freely give. Freely give because God has freely given us all things (Romans 8:32), not based on who someone is or isn’t, but because it pleases God. Proverbs 3:27 encourages, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Ask God to show you how to be impartial and to reveal any ways you’ve been practicing it. When confronting a situation where you can choose how you respond to people, ask God to lead you and lean on His understanding over your own.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Prostock-Studio
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.