STOP DOING FAVORS
Preferring is a serious obstacle in becoming a better person. It is a weakness we all share. When we choose one over another, we create harm. When Eve preferred the clever serpent to her husband, trouble began in a big way. Jacob pampered Joseph and his brothers sold him into slavery. Even God may have had a touch of it when He chose David over his brothers and King Saul, but for good reasons. “There is no preference of persons with God” (Romans 2:11). We humans do our preferring on likes and dislikes, on color and skin, on race and religion, and on issues and politics. Issues and politics are the two worst culprits because they invade, not just a person; but, more so a community, a nation and all religions. Preferring is like a leaven that permeates our life. Jesus warned that even He would disrupt families and nations over His teaching (Matthew 10:34-39). In my own family, we have differences that could split us up like so many do over partiality. Even my wife likes listening to solicitors that rub me the wrong way. None of these things have disrupted our family ties because the peace of Christ overshadows them. Christ for us has changed the rules by which we preference when we have to. We do and must, at times, choose not based on feeling, likes or looks, but on values that do not hurt us or anyone else.
Favoritism is an ancient evil. The early Church, under Pastor James, had a sad situation (James 2:1-13). Being dependant on the rich for support, the leaders treated them with dignity and privileged seats during services. The poor had to stand or sit on the floor at the feet of the rich that were buying their way into heaven. Churches in Europe have become tourist attractions. In almost all of them there are cubicles for royalties and special areas for the upper classes. They are a reminder of the discrimination preferring caused even in Christianity. Still today, when travelers inadvertently sit in one of the designated seats, prohibiting looks are aimed at them. We need not be surprised to hear our clergy elevate and single out some people for some deed, but never take note of others not to their liking. I do know how to preference. I have done it as a pastor and used it to encourage others. To my dismay, my praising of certain individuals discouraged more people and hindered my ministry. I, too, was influenced by the idea that achievers should be recognized. However, if we turn our heroes into idols, we plant the seed of disruptions (I Corinthians 3:3-4, 21-23). Jesus, Himself, refused to be a hero but insisted that He had come to serve. He rejected James and John for wanting to be special in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-45).
The Apostle Paul compared the oneness and unity of a family of faith with the human body (I Corinthians 12:26). It is unthinkable to exclude any part of the human body because they work together to sustain the body. Some parts have more than one function and they are not the ones that are publicly displayed. When they are abused, like the reproductive organs, we disrupt the unity and cause suffering and even death. The desire to add an additional part to a whole body results in a crime like adultery, coveting, stealing and so on. Favoritism is a crime against anyone that elevates him/herself or anyone else over others with the same rights. This was the downfall of Noah’s generation, the Israelites under Babylon and Rome and it shall be again and again for every nation that is ruled by Preferencing. Our legislators and justices have legalized preferencing-granted privileges to individuals, groups, races, religions and politicians. We are well on the way to the demise of the family, the neighborhood and the nation. Christian denominations and groups have also succumbed to the secular law that grants special privileges to what has been cleverly designated as minority or underprivileged. To fall in with this ruling, Christians have to redefine the Biblical mandate of impartiality. It has resulted in the splintering of most denominations and groups and weakened them to a point where their voice no longer impacts the affairs of their social life.
Does all this mean that we cannot choose our friends? Yes and no, but within certain guidelines. Does it depend on the gifts and praises we shower on each other, or on the need for each other to make life easier in this world? It is not an easy task to be impartial with friends. Some have to be treated like raw eggs (I Corinthians 8:9-13). We do need what Jesus called, “Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Only last week a garden snake was in our garage. When I appeared, it disappeared. As a boy I had pigeons. They were harmless but not friendly. Both these creatures can be trained to be friends. Like Pavlov’s dog, they have to be rewarded before and after they respond. Humans are blessed with reasoning and are capable of making friends without the need to reciprocate. We do not have to butter each other, but simply treat each other fairly (Matthew 23:23). I am not certain that lowering myself below a friend shall make me a competitive friend. In God’s eyes or in His kingdom we are all equal (Romans 12:3-8).
Doctor Luke, the writer of the third Gospel, recorded two parables of Jesus that help us deal with preferring or favoritism. While attending a wedding, Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats and then were humiliated when the host had them seated elsewhere. It would have been more appropriate if they had waited to be seated and they would not have been humiliated (Luke 14:7-11). The anxious guest could have avoided being discriminated. To avoid such a preferring affair, Jesus urged his follower to throw a party for those that could not repay or return the favor (Luke 14:12-14). The classic example of the need for stopping to do favors is “The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector” (Luke 18:9-14). Both men prayed. The Pharisee told God how important and good he was. The tax -man begged in shame to be forgiven. We are not told how this man felt toward the saint on the hill. Jesus regarded him as being on the way to become a better person.