"I charge you in the sight of God and of Jesus Christ and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism." ~I Timothy 5:21
I came across this verse today while browsing through an article on homeschooling. The article was referring to teachers and parents who use the successes and/or failures of one student against another student. While it happens often in a classroom setting, it is a particularly easy trap to fall into as a homeschooling parent. What parent, even ones who do not homeschool, is not guilty of comparing their children at some point? "Oh, Johnny was such a tiny baby I assumed that Susie would be also." or "Susie was walking by the time she was ten months old. I wonder if I should be concerned that Johnny is 13 months and shows no interest in walking yet?" As Johnny and Susie grow mom and dad may try hard to not compare but chances are, if they attend the same school, well meaning teachers will do so. "Oh Johnny, I was your sister's art teacher and I remember she had such a wonderful talent for art! I can't wait to see some of your drawings!" Well, maybe Johnny can't draw to save his life! Comparison almost always leads to favoritism. Maybe Susie's teacher really loved the drawings she did and when Johnny is unable to do the same, the teacher holds a special place in her heart for Susie all the while encouraging Johnny to keep trying because she just knows that he can do it (even though he cannot no more than a fish can climb a tree.)
As human beings, we all tend to gravitate toward individuals who share common interests. I was a full fledged tomboy growing up, therefore most of my friends were boys. I played baseball, kickball, soccer, basketball and hockey everyday I could. You wouldn't catch me with a doll in my hands! My "favorite" friends were the ones who would do the things I liked to do because they liked those things as well. As an adult, and a former teacher, I know how difficult it is to not show favoritism. I had some students in my class who I just adored. Of course, that meant there were some whose personalities clashed with mine. They were most definitely not my favorites! In fact, being a young teacher, I would have given anything to rid my classroom of these trouble makers! I could not, though. You see, my professional duty was to teach my entire class and treat them all the same.
What does this have to do with Paul's letter to Timothy quoted in the beginning of my entry? Paul was warning Timothy of the dangers of favoritism in the church. Jesus did not play favorites. Yes, He had His disciples whom he loved and called to be set apart so that He could train them to continue His work after His death, but He did not elevate them over other people. In fact, when the mother of two of his disciples asked for special treatment for her sons, she was denied her request. God does not show favoritism in His kingdom. Favoritism in the church goes against what Jesus stood for while He ministered on earth.
I write about this because it is an issue we seem to be facing. Of course I cannot give specifics nor will I elude to any person or people whom I feel to be part of the problem, but suffice it to say it does seem to be a problem. Perhaps more so because the favorites are not my own kids. This time, it seems, my kids are on the outside watching a situation unfold that screams favoritism. Coming from a background where favoritism within the church negatively affected my spiritual growth, it bothers me to have my kids go through this. Of course, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of gravitating toward a certain group of people, and that is fine if one is doing that with their own adult friends. The problem is when one is in a profession that requires love and acceptance and fair treatment of all and that is not happening, it becomes a frustrating existence, not to mention a difficult one to explain to kids. Looking back now I can see instances where one or more of my kids WERE the favorite and I was blind to the ones being ignored. I personally don't want to fall into that trap again and pray that eyes will be opened so others can see what they are doing to those to whom it is happening now.