Question: "What does the Bible say about favoritism?"
Answer: Favoritism is partiality or bias. To show favoritism is to give preference to one person over others with equal claims. It is similar to discrimination and may be based on conditions such as social class, wealth, clothing, actions, etc.
The Bible is clear that favoritism is not God’s will for our lives. First, favoritism is incongruent with God’s character: “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). All are equal before Him. Ephesians 6:9 says, “There is no favoritism with him.” Colossians 3:25 teaches God’s fairness in judgment: “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”
Second, the Bible teaches Christians are not to show favoritism: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism” (James 2:1). The context concerns the treatment of rich and poor in the church. James points out that treating someone differently based on his financial status or how he is dressed is wrong.
The Old Testament provides similar instruction regarding favoritism. Leviticus 19:15 teaches, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Exodus 23:3 likewise commands, “Do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.” Justice should be blind, and both rich and poor should be treated equally before the law.
Third, the Bible calls favoritism sin: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:8-9). Favoritism is a serious offense against God’s call to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Fourth, church leaders are especially charged not to show favoritism. Paul commanded Timothy, a young church leader, “I 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” (1 Timothy 5:21).
Fifth, it is difficult to avoid showing favoritism. Even Christ’s closest followers struggled with bias against people different from them. When the apostle Peter was first called to minister to non-Jewish people, he was reluctant. He later admitted, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 11:34). The fact that James specifically addresses the sin of favoritism implies that this was a common problem within the early church.
Favoritism is a problem we still deal with. Favoritism and partiality are not from God, and Christians are called to love. As humans, we tend to form judgments based on selfish, personal criteria rather than seeing others as God sees them. May we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and follow His example of treating every person with God’s love (John 3:16).