By Steve Onguko
Does God show favouritism?
Why is it always His will?
We all have our favourite things in life. Just for a little fun let’s do a simple excise concerning the following possibilities of preference.
- Chocolate or vanilla?
- Coffee or tea?
- Read meat or white meat?
We all have our personal likes or preferences. They are neither right nor wrong. They are simply our preferences. In the little things of life, these personal likes and dislikes are perfectly fine. They help define who we are.
Actually, without these different preferences life would be pretty boring. Can we imagine life without various shades of colour? We wouldn’t have various shades if we all liked the same shade of blue or red. What would it be like if we all enjoyed the same style of house? What would life be like if we all preferred the same job? Variety is almost necessary for us to enjoy the breadth of God’s creation.
What happens when preferences become favouritism? Have you ever been in a situation where you have either witnessed or been a part of favouritism? A teacher likes certain people in the classroom more than others and shows it.
James tells us favouritism is sin, but throughout the Bible God favoured one person over another.
From Abram, the list of God choosing some but not all goes on. God favoured Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob, not Esau, Judah not Reuben, Moses not Pharaoh, and on through history until God chose Mary, not some other woman, to be the mother of the Son of God. Notice how the angel Gabriel explains this to Mary: “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus'” (Luke 1:30–31, ESV).
So the Bible is clear that God chooses to favour some and not all.
It’s important to stress that God’s “favour” is different from “favouritism” which, as James pointed out, is a sin. Favouritism is when someone chooses a person or thing because of some perceived merit or worth. But, as David says in Psalm 14:3; 53:3, which Paul uses to summarize in Romans 3:23, all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s righteous requirements. There is no human who deserves God’s favour. All people deserve the wrath of God. Some He chooses to give His grace. That’s why election is not favouritism.
Redemption accomplished by Christ is the meta narrative; the main story of the Bible. And central to the redemptive story is a God who is sovereign over all things, including the freely-made choices of men and women to do good and to do evil.
It’s important to recognize that these truths are not the ultimate favouritism. Instead, this is the ultimate in favour by a God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to redeem a world absolutely unlovable to a perfectly holy God. This is grace writ large; grace that is unmerited favour, not favouritism.
And as Peter explained in Acts 2:23 quoted above, it’s not that God only knows what is going to happen, He has had a definite plan from before time began. It is a plan that He actively works for His glory alone (Ephesians 1:5-10). And the ultimate act that glorifies God is the obedience of Jesus the Son, obedient in all things, even to death on a cross for the redemption of all those the Father had given His Son.
Again, we might ask ourselves, “Is God unfair” by allowing an innocent man to die (Mark 15:7)? It wasn’t “fair” that the insurrectionist and murderer Barabbas be pardoned while Jesus, the Son of God…innocent and sinless…should be mocked, horribly disfigured, and executed with criminals (Mark 15:7, 17–20). Have we earned greater “preferential treatment” than Jesus?
God gave us a free will, to choose or reject Him. Even so, His Son, Jesus Christ surrendered His life for all mankind. The scale of virtue tips heavily against us…sinful, self-centred, and stubborn. Through abundant grace, not fairness, a just God tips the scales in our favour (Ephesians 2:4-5).