Does God have favorites?
Question: "Does God have favorites?"
Answer: Whether or not God has favorites is a tricky question because it is based upon our human understanding of favoritism, which usually means unfair treatment of anyone who is not favored. To completely understand the answer, we have to start with the truth that God is always just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 7:11). We know He loves everyone because every human being is created in His image (John 3:16; Lamentations 3:22–23; Genesis 1:26). His judgment is always right. So if He favors someone, it is the only right thing to do.
When we think of favoritism, we imagine a place of higher status and less responsibility. But God’s favor often comes with added duties and more difficult challenges. Jesus was the embodiment of everything God favors. Many times in Scripture God calls Jesus “My Chosen One” (e.g., Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17; 12:18; Luke 9:35). That title is also used to refer to Israel (Isaiah 45:4; 65:9; 1 Kings 11:13). God chose prophets and kings for His own sovereign reasons (Exodus 33:17; Daniel 10:11; 1 Samuel 2:26). God chose Solomon from all of David’s sons to become the next king (1 Chronicles 28:5–6). He gifted him in wealth, in popularity, and in wisdom (1 Kings 5:12).
However, many of those whom God favored were persecuted and suffered hardship because of the mantle of responsibility God placed upon them. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with these words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). We have no further record as to why Mary was chosen, but the result of God’s favor upon her was that she had to bear great sorrow and difficulty as the mother of the Messiah. The “sword” would “pierce her soul” (Luke 2:35). Romans 9:14–16 sums up God’s sovereign right to choose: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend upon human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
So is God’s favor arbitrary? Do our choices have any impact on whether we are among His favorites? Isaiah 66:2 says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” God wants to show us all His favor, but in His sovereign knowledge, He chooses some for special assignment and blessing. When God gave Moses instructions about building the tabernacle, He named two men that He had specifically chosen to do the artistic work. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge. . . . Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him” (Exodus 31:1–4, 6). Sometimes, God chooses people because He has gifted them in special ways for special service. As they fulfill the calling He placed on their lives, they find favor with Him (Exodus 33:13).
God is not limited in His favor. He does not rank us in order of importance, nor is His favor something we must compete with one another to earn. Every child of God who comes to Him through faith in Jesus Christ has the favor of God. Psalm 5:12 says, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” It is not our own righteousness that earns us favor; we are declared righteous through the cleansing of our sins by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21). As we grow in faith and seek to please Him, God demonstrates His favor by drawing near to us (James 4:8). He desires to bestow favor on everyone who seeks Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He grants spiritual gifts to all His children to use in His service (1 Corinthians 12:5–7; 1 Peter 4:10). Even the Lord’s discipline is a means of showing favor to His children. Hebrews 12:5–6 says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
God’s favorites are His children, purchased through the blood of His Son (John 1:12). As we honor Jesus, God’s favor follows us. That favor may manifest itself through greater responsibility, blessing, or even suffering for His sake (Acts 5:41). The reward of His favor is His promise that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). When we are God’s favorites, we know He is always with us and will reward us for everything done for Him (Matthew 28:20; Revelation 22:12).
Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
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