Recent studies claim that most parents actually have a favorite child. My wife Susan and I have three adult sons and we have intentionally loved them as equally as humanly possible. When the boys were young, we made a habit of asking them who they thought was mom or dad’s favorite. It was cute to hear them shout out “Glenn-Garrett-Gatlin” as if it were one word.
I am curious about how the brothers and sisters of Jesus felt considering the affections of Joseph and Mary. Knowing Jesus was the Savior of humanity, it would make sense that there may have been at least an appearance of favoritism. We don’t know, as we only have record of one sibling, James, who wrote a letter we call the book of James.
James was known for and set an example of humility. There is no record of him ever using his position as Jesus’ blood relative as a basis for his authority. Rather, he described himself as a “servant” of Jesus, and nothing more. As a humble and gracious leader, James was a blessing to the church in the first century and remains a blessing to us in the twenty-first.
In the second chapter of his book, James shows us what a life conformed to God’s law of love looks like. He begins with a negative example in verse 1: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (James 2:1).
Though James is including all kinds of favoritism, he is focusing on the issue of wealth. Even inside the church, the “haves” were being shown favor, while the “have-nots” were cast aside. James was making it clear that favoritism is incompatible with those who put their trust in Jesus Christ.
Notice what James is emphasizing. Abiding in God’s will (in this case avoiding favoritism) is not about the perfection of our faith, but the perfection of the object of our faith—Jesus. Jesus is the one who loves all people equally—with him there is no favoritism. Therefore, believers — or followers — join him in loving all people equally.
James gets even stronger. To show favoritism, he warns, is to stand in judgment of others. Notice verses 8-9: “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).
Loving your neighbor as yourself leaves no room for favoritism. James is telling us to trust wholly in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and view others the way he does. Join him in loving all people without favoritism. Show mercy to all, and it will be shown to you.
This is Greg Williams, speaking of life.