The Consequences of Favoritism
Do you have a favorite child? Do you know someone else that has a favorite child? Favoritism can tear families apart and impact generations. We can find several examples of favoritism in the Bible and the devastating impact that it had.
We all want to be loved. We all need someone who loves us unconditionally and that we know is always there for us. In God’s ideal design, that is supposed to be our parents. Yet, when we feel like we are loved less than another child…it strikes at the heart of our sense of worthiness, lovability, and security.
Favoritism and the Character of God
Favoritism comes up a lot in the Bible. Christians are warned again and again not to show favoritism to the wealthy and the powerful. We are reminded that God does not show favoritism in the punishment of sin that all will be held accountable.
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James 2:1 NIV
It is clear when studying favoritism in the Bible that it is not a part of the character of God. Moreover, we see God’s unfailing grace is that we, who proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, are adopted into the family of God. We are made co-heirs with the Son.
As Christian, we don’t have to compete with others for God’s love and affection. We don’t have to prove ourselves with good deeds. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God loves us just as we are and knows all that we are. He is a good, good parent.
Examples of Favoritism Shown in the Bible
The consequences of favoritism have shaped many lives in the Bible. Abraham’s son, grandson, and great-grandson all suffered from cycles of favoritism.
Favoritism can be a cycle that is repeated generation after generation, often without us realizing that it is happening. Christians are called to break generation curses in our quest to be more like Christ. We are called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and repent of the sins of our ancestors and ourselves.
The Favoritism of Isaac & Rebekah
Dad’s favorite was Esau, Mom’s favorite was Isaac, and both boys knew it. Isaac was the favored son of Abraham, born to Sarah. He was the child of the promise. Yet, he had an older brother named Ishmael. Abraham chose Isaac as his heir and sent Ishmael and his mother Haggar away. Isaac was the first-hand recipient of favoritism.
Isaac and Rebekah waited two decades to have children. The Bible tells us that Isaac prayed for his wife. Finally, Rebekah conceived and she gave birth to twins: Esau and Jacob.
“When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
– Genesis 25:27-28
Esau and Jacob were different people. Esau loved to be outside and go hunting. Jacob was the quieter man and stayed closer to home. Being at home more, Jacob would have had more time to cultivate a relationship with his mother. I wonder if Esau stayed out in the fields more or hunted longer because he didn’t feel less like he fit in at home?
Each of our children is unique with their own special personalities and gifts. It can be easy to get along with and enjoy the child that has the same interests and passions as we do, but we are called to value the unique ways in which God has crafted each of His children.
Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game. We are told that Rebekah loved Jacob. There is no qualifier or reason given, just that she loved him. For Esau, however, we are told that Isaac loved Esau because of the food that his son brought him. Did Esau feel like he had to earn his father’s love?
Do your children earn your love with their obedience? Do you favor one child more than another because they listen and obey? It is easy to pull away from a child that we find ourselves continually butting heads with and always find ourselves batting their attitudes. Ironically, this is the time to lean into our relationship with that child. This is the time to let that child know that they are loved.
Do we show favoritism to the child that is good at sports? Favoritism to the child that is good at academics? Far too many parents live through their children. We long for our children to have the success or popularity that we had, or that we struggled to have, when growing up. Unconsciously, we seek to heal our wounds through the validation of our children.
As Christians, we are all apart of the body of Christ. Each part of the body has a unique and essential task. Each part of the body is necessary for the overall health of the body. In our Christian families, each member is unique, as well. Just as we are loved without favoritism and our gifts are equally valued before God, so to should we value our children as God values us.
The favoritism between Esau and Issac fed the sibling rivalry between them. Isaac desperately wanted Esau’s birthright as the firstborn son. Esau traded that birthright for soup because the Bible tells us that “Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:34)
Later, when Isaac is dying, Rebekah helps Jacob trick Isaac into believing that Jacob is Esau. This treachery allowed Jacob to receive that blessing that belonged to Esau. Rebekah lied to her husband as a result of her favoritism. Rebekah harmed her other son as a result of her favoritism too.
Favoritism is a cancer that grows and grows. The effects of Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism shaped each of their sons and set them up as adversaries to each other. Isaac and Rebekah passed on a generational curse that would haunt their children and grandchildren.
Jacob’s Favoritism between His Wives
The examples of favoritism in the Bible don’t just include brothers, but sisters as well. Jacob had two wives: Leah and Rachel. Jacob really loved Rachel. However, he was tricked into marrying Leah first. Leah knew from the beginning that she was considered less pretty and less loved than her sister.
Do you have one child that is prettier than the others? Don’t answer that question. Each child has a beauty of their own. In our modern culture, appearance is a massive measure of self-worth, especially for our daughters.
Never compare the figure or appearance of one child to another. Never compare the athletic ability of one child to another. Never compare the intelligence of one child to another. Each one of your children is of immeasurable worth created in the image of God.
Although Leah didn’t have the undivided love of her husband, God blessed her with many sons. Sadly, she tried to prove her worth through the sons she bore, while Rebekah struggled to have any children.
Parents must be careful to not favor a son or daughter with children over one without children. Our children are not valuable for what they produce. Do you know families were one set of grandchildren is favored over another? These examples of favoritism should not be so in Christian families.
Jacob’s Favoritism for Joseph over His Other Sons
Joseph was the “baby” of the family. The favorite child of his beloved Rebekah. The favoritism to his mom, extended to him, and the rest of the family knew it. Joseph was Rebekah’s first and only son for years. Five chapters after Joseph’s birth (Genesis 30), the Bible records the birth of Benjamin. Sadly, Rebekah dies giving birth to Benjamin. Even after Benjamin’s arrival, perhaps because of Rebekah’s death, Joseph remains as the favorite child.
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” – Genesis 37:3
Joseph was the favorite, and his brothers knew it. His brothers resented him for it. The resentment and hate were so strong that they sold him into slavery and told their father that his beloved son was dead.
Jacob’s favoritism continued to plague his family. His wives should have been united as sisters, but they each felt like they had to battle for Jacob’s love and affection. Jacob’s sons should have been united as a family, but the favoritism fractured their relationships as well. What would the future of the twelve tribes of Israel have been like if Jacob has confronted his sin of favoritism and had led his family to repentance?
Hope for Healing from Favoritism
Have you experienced favoritism in your family? Do you feel like a sibling is loved more than you? Do you feel like you don’t measure up or have to earn your parents’ love? You are not alone and you have nothing for which to be ashamed. Know that God loves you!
Joseph went from the favorite child to a slave. Yet, God redeems his story and works in a mighty way to bring him to the second most powerful place in all of Egypt. God puts Joseph in a position to be able to punish his brothers or to bless his brothers. After all of the suffering that Joseph went through, he chose to bless. He decided to seek reconciliation and healing.
We can see from favoritism in the Bible, the lasting consequences of favoritism. Yet, we can change the story! Let us break the sin of favoritism within our families and within our churches. Let us show the deep love of God to each person – not based on what they do or how they are like us – but just because they are created in the image of God.
Sometimes the greatest gift we can give one another is to love each other as God loves us.
Want to learn more about Isaac’s family?