Dealing with Favoritism – James 2:1-13

Points covered: God is impartial, Impartial nature of God. Dealing with favoritism. Effects of favoritism. What to do when I face partiality? Facing favoritism. Can A Christian show Favoritism?


We are living in a very partial world. People have their favorite food, banks, restaurants, dress, music, car etc. Favoritism has crept into us so much that even for dealing with people we have favorites. We tend to put everyone in some kind of position, higher or lower than other people. It has to do with their looks, their dressing, the car they drive, the house they live in; sometimes it has to do with their race, their social status, characteristics of their personality.

I do not know if you are too choosy about everything, it is good to have the best but if we are too choosy about people, that becomes a problem. Are you partial? Are you a victim of favoritism?

Well, this morning I want to speak to you on this subject of Dealing with Favoritism!

Favoritism means “Preferential attitude and treatment of a person or group over another having equal claims and rights.” In other words it is unjustified partiality, treating one person better than another person because for some reason or another you prefer them. People with equal needs are to be treated with equality. And yet we all fall into the net of favoritism because of a person’s looks, profession, possessions, life style, education, money, position, fame etc.

James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

James 2:9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. We are to be impartial and fair in dealing with people and God is very serious about how we are to others.

1.God is impartial

God is absolutely and totally impartial in dealing with people.

Deuteronomy 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Romans 2:11 For God does not show favoritism.

a. God is impartial in offering salvation.

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

b. God is impartial in judgment.

2 Chronicles 19:7 Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.

Colossians 3:25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

c. God is impartial with regard to man’s social status.

Ephesians 6:9 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. God doesn’t have greater preference for a manager or a worker, a prime minister or a servant, the landlord or the maid. He treats people from every society, culture, and status equally.

d. God is impartial in disciplining sin.

1 Timothy 5:20-21 20But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. God is impartial when it comes to punishing sin be it an elder, pastor, believer, or a nonbeliever.

e. God is impartial in his demands from men.

Salvation – Whosoever believeth in God shall be saved.

Holiness – 1 Peter 1:15-17 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

So God is not partial. Even Jesus’ enemies knew it. Matthew 22:15-16 15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Even His enemies saw it. Whether you’re talking about salvation, judgment, job, status, sin and discipline, God is impartial and his standards are always the same.

Now that God is impartial:

2. God expects his children to be impartial.

Proverbs 28:21 To show partiality is not good.

James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

We are studying from the Book of James and James gives its readers a series of tests to examine our faith. True believers respond properly to trials, to temptation and to the Word of God. All three of those were in chapter 1. Now in chapter 2 he says, “True believers respond properly to one another without favoritism.”

Illustration: When he was a student, the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, considered becoming a Christian. He read the Gospels and was moved by them. It seemed to him that Christianity offered a solution to the caste system that plagued the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a local church. He had decided to see the pastor and ask for instruction on the way of salvation. But when he entered the church, which consisted of white people, the ushers refused to give him a seat. They told him to go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.

If we are God’s children we will not be favoring certain people because of their status, education, money, fame, prestige, looks or whatever. There’s no place for favoritism in the heart of God and there’s no place for favoritism in the heart of His people and therefore there’s no place for favoritism in the church.

A believer’s pattern for life is mentioned in: Philippines 2:2 Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. That is to love everyone the same, with no regard for who they are in terms of worldly circumstances. We are to have a love which does not discriminate but it acts in mercy to anyone in need, no matter what their social status, no matter what may be those things which in the world’s eyes might put them to a lower level than someone else. True salvation brings about love without favoritism. Sure there are times when we’re sinful and we fail to do that. But nonetheless, that is the pursuit of the life of a true believer to treat all equally in the basis of need and spiritual relationship.

And this was an issue, obviously, among the people to whom James wrote. And he is telling them, in effect, “Do a little inventory on your life. If you want to know where you stand with God, how do you respond to trials? How do you respond to temptation? How do you respond to the Word? And how do you respond to opportunities to show mercy and kindness and love toward others without regard for who they are?”

James is giving us the principle of impartiality. James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. That’s the principle. Saying that I hold the faith of glorious Jesus Christ and at the same time having respect for persons is contradictory. You cannot in the one hand hold on to the Christian faith and in the other hand hold on to partiality and favoritism. And if one of the attributes of God is impartiality then we who are his children, would also demonstrate the same impartiality.

And yet people and churches have racial stratification, economic stratification. This ought not to be. This is not just a small problem, this is sin. This is a transgression of God’s law.

3. Example of Wood, Beulah; – Man.

This is a supposition but this is how all men and most believers behave. James 2:2 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. So, this is a church meeting. And into the church meeting comes a visitor. The first visitor is a man very rich man. Rings were customary among Jews. Do you remember the father wanted to put a ring when the prodigal son came back? So here comes Mr. Gold Fingers, not just one ring but he’s got them all over his fingers. Not only that he comes in with gold in his fingers but he has some flashy costly clothing.

Now there’s no problem with that. It is his choice what he wear and probably he is an unbeliever. He needs to hear the gospel. He’s not condemned for his dress and he is welcome to church. So it’s fine for that man to come.

And then comes another man. He’s at the lowest level of social strata. This man is so poor he has to beg. He stinks. There is only piece of clothing that he owns. He sleeps in it, he sweats in it, he works in it, he lives in it. And he came in, it is fine. He’s not condemned for not dressing up. Nobody stops him at the door and says go home and get a tie or you can’t be here. Nobody does that. They didn’t throw sackcloth on the rich man and they don’t throw some special robe on this guy. That isn’t the issue.

You say, “Where’s the issue?” James 2:3-4 3If 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,”4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

In other words, where you can see the partiality fleshing out is in the way you treat a rich man as over against a poor man in the assembly of the church. Such action shows the sin of favoritism, judgment based on nothing more than a man’s appearance rather than having sensitivity to his need. It was not wrong to say to the rich man, “Here, take this fine seat in a good place.” It was wrong to say to the poor man, “Sit down on the floor or get out of the way.” It would have been right to say to both men, “Take this seat in a fine place” and to give equality to both of them rather than preferring one over the other. That demonstrates a lack of Christian love which may be an indicator of the absence of a transformed life.

4. God’s example of equality.

James 2:5-6a 5Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor.

When it comes to populating the Kingdom, when it comes to choosing men and women to love Him, when it comes to promising eternal life, predominantly those people God has chosen are among the common people of the world. That does not mean that the kingdom of God belong to the economically poor. There were rich disciples then and even today for Jesus. But it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom because of their riches and God has been very fair in giving equal changes to both the poor and the rich to enter the kingdom but predominantly the poor are there and God is not partial. And if God has chosen the poor, how can you choose against them? How can you discriminate between rich and poor? How can you have favorites? It is a sin. So the Bible in effect tells us not to show favoritism.

5. Effects of showing favoritism

Many times even though we know what we are doing is wrong, but we end up showing favoritism to our loved or close ones. Even in the Bible we find God’s people, people who are used by God showing favoritism. But is it good? Can I favor someone when I have got the power to do so? Do I gain something by favoring someone from my family or the one I prefer?

The Bible says Isaac loved to eat wild meat so he favored Easu who would hunt but Rebecca favored Jacob. Here in God’s family, father and mother have their favorites. Isaac wanted to bless Easu secretly but Rebecca the mother heard the conversation and told Jacob about it. Jacob betrayed his father and brother and ended up getting the blessing.

See the next generation, Jacob favored Joseph than his other sons and gave him a colourful jacket. Jacob he had something special for one son. What are the consequences of all these actions? Esau lost his blessings. Jacob got his blessings but he had to flee from his house. He was cheated by his father-in-law. He was cheated by his own sons. Joseph ended up being tortured by the brothers, sold and ended up in Egypt. You see, every time we are partial to someone we love or prefer someone, we sin and we end up facing the consequences for it.

Malachi 2:9 So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.

1. Despised. Meaning hated by God. The more you try to favour someone the more God hates it and cause you to be hated by others.

2. Humiliated.

3. Loss.

6. Handling favoritism as a victim.

I know we often come across injustice and partiality in our life. Maybe some of you here have been neglected by parents. You feel your parents did not give you a good deal whereas your siblings were more preferred, pampered, and given more opportunities. Maybe you applied for a promotion and you were neglected and someone who was not qualified got the promotion. Maybe you have been a victim of favoritism at a Christian ministry somewhere. How do I handle favoritism by others?

Jesus Christ is a great example for us. Right from his birth laws were made and altered to attack and kill him. The Sanhedrin had been very critical and judgmental on him. Even when he was arrested and tried Jesus was at the receiving end of man’s favoritism. According to the gospels, it was customary for the Romans to release a Jewish prisoner during the Passover festival. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate tried to use this custom as an excuse to release Jesus but the crowd in the courtyard demanded that a prisoner named Barabbas be freed instead, and Pilate eventually gave in to the pressure. Thus Barabbas was released, and Jesus was crucified. He faced favoritism like any one of us and this resulted in his death. That was the will of God that Jesus is betrayed, not favored upon, and die on the cross. Even death could not hold him and he came out victorious on the third day.

  1. God has permitted it.
  2. Never give up.
  3. Do what you are doing even better.
  4. God is impartial and true honour comes from God.


Am I partial? Do I have preferences when it comes to people, friends, ministers, gifts or do I treat everyone equally? Ask God to change your perspective. Ask him to fill you with his character of impartiality. Secondly, are you a victim of favoritism. Commit your hurts and pain to him. He will lift you up in due time. God has a plan for you and whatever is happening in your life is the will of God. Let’s Pray.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Favoritism – James 2:1-13

  • jonathan

    Much of what is said at 6 above is a description of my life, and I am now trying to cope with favouritism
    in the Church, which should never be. I take it all to the Lord and I know he’ll bring me through it and I will not be on the receiving end forever. I would however appreciate and value your prayers


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