August 6

“It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice…To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong” (Proverbs 18:5; 28:21)

“Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28)

“Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. (Genesis 37:3-4)

Very few of us experience all the blessings of families as a result of unresolved problems. Old Testament history provides many examples of serious family difficulties for our instruction and as warnings. Isaac’s favoritism led to a bitter rivalry and hatred among his sons; Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, who was favored by his father, and Jacob (favored by his mother) was forced to flee his family to escape his brother’s wrath. After Jacob married Leah by his father-in-law’s manipulation, he loved her less and favored Rachel, his true love. He also loved his son Joseph over his brothers (who sold Joseph into slavery in their jealousy).

Although the two cited Proverb’s verses primarily refer to favoritism in court, anything that stirs up conflict and jealousy between family members is opposed to the will of God. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16) Allowing favoritism toward or among children teaches them that it is acceptable and the cycle continues. Those who are favored often become prideful; those who are not favored may become resentful, disobedient, and rebellious.

Isaac loved Esau because they both loved to hunt. The reason that Jacob loved Joseph the most was because he was born to his father when he was in his nineties, and was the first-born of Rachael after decades of waiting. * One thing Isaac and Jacob seem to have in common is their outward show of their favoritism, which they likely had no qualms about. Jacob knew exactly how to fool his father in his old age, with limited eyesight, to give him the blessing because his father’s partiality toward Esau was on display, as was Rebekah’s bias for Jacob. When Jacob was a father himself, he gave his favored son Joseph a many-colored robe, signifying a special position in the family. They didn’t try to hide their partiality.

Today favoritism of particular children is either flaunted, as it was then, or hidden (unsuccessfully) since most modern societies look down upon such partiality as harmful to family life. However, being sinners by nature, it is impossible to be entirely impartial toward our family members. Sometimes we have much in common with some (like Isaac and Esau, or Rebekah and Jacob) and other times there are exceptional circumstances surrounding births or other milestones (like Jacob with Rachel and Joseph). Of course, things happen as we grow older and unfortunately, family ties become strained. But they do not have to start or stay that way.

We need to be honest with God and ourselves, to recognize the special Christ-centered bond we have with each person God has placed in our family. Will you start this process today, if you haven’t already, by consulting your heart and the Lord, seeking the Christian love that extends toward everyone in your family, regardless of interests, circumstances, or past history?

* John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,

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