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It seems that favoritism was an issue in the early church, as those with greater wealth or standing were accorded better treatment than others. The Apostle James spoke against this impulse in his epistle:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1–4)

He goes on to say,

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (vv. 8–9)

An Early Solution to Favoritism

It is interesting that, of the original twelve Apostles, four were fishermen and one was a tax collector, and we have no idea what the others did before being called by Christ. The Lord used those “uneducated” disciples to be the catalyst to form a worldwide church. The key was faithfulness, the work of the Holy Spirit, and preaching Christ and Him crucified. The beauty of the book of Acts is seeing the church grow first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and in Samaria, and then in the whole Roman world and beyond.

There was one incident that almost divided the church and caused deep hurt for a while—it stemmed from favoritism. It is recorded in Acts 6, where the Hellenist widows were neglected by the church:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. (v. 1)

Mistreating the Hellenists was likely unintentional, but the Hebrew widows were receiving care and the Greek-speaking widows were not. This showed favoritism, and someone loses out when we practice favoritism. The solution to the problem was to elect seven men of faith to tend to the needs of these women, so the predecessors to deacons were appointed to serve the poor and sick, first in the household of God and second to those outside of the faith (Gal. 6:10).

God shows no partiality in the covenant of grace. So why, then, do we size up people?
The Value of People

The church is a society designed by the Lord to include everyone. We are commanded first to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). From this love for God flows love for our brothers (1 John 4:21) and neighbors. God is not a respecter of persons; He shows no partiality in the covenant of grace. So why, then, do we size up people?

To prejudge someone is to determine his worth or worthlessness. The usual people of high value are the gifted teacher, the wealthy member, and the young family that will bring children or other young families. The needy who take up a lot of time and need a lot of discipling do not often find immediate favor in the church. Where does that leave the elderly widow(er)? She or he may be your best prayer warrior and the warmest greeter to visitors. A saint who is seventy years old or more who for his whole life has followed the Lord and lived for His glory is a powerful testimony of God’s blessings and His steadfast love for His saints. For those children at our church who do not have believing grandparents in their biological family, the elderly saints at church step into that role in a large way. The singles who befriend the new visitor, help the elderly, and give their time for missions or participate in work projects are of immense importance to the body of Christ.

One Body, Many Parts

Romans 12 teaches us that we are to understand that different people have different gifts, but we are all part of the body of Christ. The hand should not despise the eye or the ear the foot. We are all important, for we make up the jewels of Christ’s crown (Mal. 3:16–18). We can easily tend to favor the new person, who we think may bring something wonderful and most needed to the life of the congregation. We may admire the accomplished businessperson or academic over the student or retiree or youth.

Can you imagine favoritism in heaven? Would the twenty-first-century saints avoid fellowshiping with the simplistic saints from, let’s say, the seventh century BC? It makes an absurd picture, doesn’t it? So, why practice that absurdity in the present? Christians are renewed in the image of Christ, and we can accept and are called to accept all people, regardless of their status, situation, or history. Jesus Christ in His earthy ministry went everywhere in Israel. He ministered to both believers and unbelievers. He showed compassion and mercy to all. He did not show favoritism, for God shows no partiality (Gal. 2:6).

We are adopted into the family of God. God loves us if we are true believers. Should we not have that impartial love for those in need of Christ, and especially to those of the household of faith?

Renewing Your Mind

Working unto the Glory of God

Keep Reading Between Two Worlds

From the September 2018 Issue
Sep 2018 Issue