Bible Society of South Africa

Playing favourites backfires - 15 March 2024

By Imogen Campbell

Bible text(s)

3Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves for him. 4When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.

Genesis 37:3-4GNBOpen in Bible reader

Jacob should have known better than to play favourites. After it had cast such a pall on his own life, one would think that he would have more than just an inkling as to how destructive it was.

Joseph was hated and sold off by his brothers on account of the favouritism inherent in their Dad’s relationship with him. It was Joseph who ended up in a foreign country serving as a slave and then in jail.

Favouritism had driven a wedge between Esau and Jacob. Yet Romans 9:11-13 states that God himself said, “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’.” In this instance, it was God expressing election. Consider Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.’

Now that we have determined principles for election are not the same as favouritism, let us look at it from the perspective of not loving in the same way or the way one would hope. Genesis 29:31 states that, “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive …”

Jacob’s own family life was a mess due to the battle of the babies between Jacob’s wives. Leah’s lack of love from her husband so pained her that the names of their first three sons all reflected it somehow.

Reuben, her first-born’s name means “Surely my husband will love me now”. When Simeon was born, she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” When Levi was born, Leah said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Is it any wonder that these men were affected by Jacob’s love for Joseph, Rachel’s son, and jealous of the ornate robe given to him? The very names of some reflected Jacob’s lack of love for their mother. One can only speculate about how much family strife could have been avoided if the men of God actively endeavoured to stamp out favouritism in their lives. I am so glad that God loves us all the same.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)

Prayer: Father God, it is so easy for us, fallible human beings, to be partial to some and leave others feeling hurt. Often, we do not realise that this behaviour is harmful to those experiencing it. Please reveal it to us when it rears its ugly head and help us to reject it roundly when it does. Amen

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