Why Favoritism Is a Sin


It can be a bit shocking to our ears to hear that favoritism is a sin. We tend to play favorites regularly and almost subconsciously:

  • Sizing others up
  • Comparing each other against worldly standards
  • Asking, “What’s in this relationship for me?”

While we might not think twice about the distinctions we make between people, God does. He says that when we show favoritism, we have “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). James exhorts us to “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Favoritism is a sin. But why? What’s the big deal?

Why Favoritism Is a Sin

Here are just a few reasons we are not to show favoritism:

  • Our God shows no favoritism. None. He chooses those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom (v. 5). He shares His glory and riches with us, not judging us based on outward appearance or “success,” but on whether or not we cling to Christ.
  • Our God is “the Lord of glory” (v. 1). We cloud His glory when we judge fellow believers on anything more or less than their precious faith in Jesus.
  • Our God is King, and He has a “royal law”: to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we show favoritism, we break His law. And by failing in this way, we have become accountable for breaking all God’s law (vv. 8–10).

Favoritism is a sin, and the consequences are serious, even for believers. By forgetting God’s mercy toward us and withholding mercy from the poor, we will “be judged by the law of liberty” (vv. 12–13).

My Son’s Shining Example

There’s another way, though.

Our friends recently adopted a little boy from another country. When I shared the news with my son, Iren, he couldn’t wait to draw a card for “my friend.” Instantly this boy was “in.”

Iren’s response is a shining example to me of how I should be. He loved this other boy sight unseen. It didn’t matter to Iren that this boy has a different skin color, or that he doesn’t speak the same language. Iren didn’t care that this boy is from another culture. He didn’t ask if this boy was influential, rich, powerful, or stylish. Instantly, he was Iren’s “friend.”

Should I Only Be Friends with the Poor?

Does this mean we’re sinning if we build a close friendship with a popular girl? Not necessarily. (She, too, is your neighbor whom you’re commanded to love as yourself.)

Does this mean we’re super spiritual if we go out for coffee with a woman who doesn’t seem fit in at church? Not necessarily. (We could be doing it out of self-righteous self-love rather than out of love for God and for her.)

We can’t know another’s heart motives. But we can ask God to help us look past all this world values to what He values. We can rely on Him to love each person He places in our path in the same way as we love ourselves. 

Combating the Sin of Favoritism During Social Distancing

It may be a while before we gather with believers on a Sunday morning. But even in this period of social distancing, we can search our hearts for the sin of favoritism. For example:

  • Who do we text or call during this time, and who do we overlook or ignore? 
  • What social media accounts do we follow, and why? Do we feel better about ourselves by surrounding ourselves with “influential” people? 

Spend a minute confessing your sin of favoritism to God. Then, as you click off this post and move on with your day, turn these truths over and over in your mind, and interact with God about them: 

  • When you and I were poorly dressed in rags of self-righteousness, God covered us with His royal robes of perfect righteousness. 
  • He did not choose you and me based on anything that made us stand out above others. 
  • He welcomed us because of His great mercy.

Let’s go and do the same. 

If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll like A Hospitable Church Begins With Us.

(Versions of “Why Favoritism Is a Sin” were originally published on TrueWoman.com and MissioChurch.org.) 

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Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate, bold Christian communicator offering you gospel hope, thought-provoking questions, and practical help along the way.

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