October 23, 2017
A few years ago Cleveland Cavalier fans were upset and angry when Lebron James announced his intention to “take his talents to South Beach” and play for the Miami Heat. Two NBA championships later he left the Heat to return to Cleveland, disappointing Heat fans and causing many of them to denounce Lebron as a traitor. Most of us, will never have to decide to walk away from the kind of money he was being offered, but it is interesting that human relationships often trump wealth and fame, especially if there is a perceived injustice. From the time we are very young we don’t like someone walking out on our team and we do not appreciate favoritism and preferential treatment no matter where it occurs, even if it is an NBA star.
Around school there are always difficulties when there is a perception of disloyalty or injustice. In our classrooms, students sometimes perceive that an injustice is done to them in the form of favoritism from a teacher, coach or director. As parents we know that even our own children complain that we sometimes favor a brother or sister over them. Most of the time this is only a perception, but even if it is perceived it can be a very real problem. It’s no different in the classroom. Our teachers always try to treat every student the same, but inevitably students often feel that someone else is treated differently than them.
Remember the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis. Joseph’s father Jacob clearly favored Joseph, and Joseph seemed to relish his position to the point of antagonizing his brothers and flaunting his status in front of them. Genesis 37:3-4, “Now as it happened, Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children, because Joseph was born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob gave him a special gift, a brightly colored coat. His brothers of course noticed their father’s partiality, and consequently hated Joseph; they couldn’t say a kind word to him.” In our own families it is possible that we might have a child who necessitates that we treat them in a special way. When Joseph was seventeen he had a dream that one day his brothers would bow down to him. He even told his brothers that the stars, sun, and moon would also be under his control. Joseph’s story, which resulted in his brothers being willing to kill him, ended with his being sold to slave traders who took him to Egypt. We also know that God had a plan for his life in Egypt and eventually he rose to power in the government and was able to rescue his father and brothers during a great famine. We don’t know at what age Joseph realized that God had a plan for his life, but it is certainly sure that he did. In all of the trials and circumstances that he faced Joseph could look back and believe that no matter what had happened in his life, God had a plan for him. But in spite of our knowing the end of the story, we should look at the results of favoritism and injustice that lead to all of the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s tragic relationship with his brothers and learn from them. Even his father Jacob’s life is a story of deceit and sorrow. Because of deceit and favoritism Joseph’s father and mother experienced pain and separation, you would think they would have learned. Jacob should have learned from his parent’s mistakes. Joseph’s brothers should have learned from their parent’s mistakes. The results of favoritism in this family affected this family for years and even into the next generation. Given the shortness of time we have together as a family or that we as teachers have with our students, we can’t afford to practice something that can have such a devastating effect on our relationships with our families or our students.
The lesson for us as parents and teachers, is that the result of showing favoritism or being unjust in our decisions can be tragic, and should have no place in our lives. Even though it may not be an irreparable circumstance, the impact of favoritism can limit the will of God in the lives of our students and our families. The greater lesson in the story of Joseph is how God can accomplish His will and purpose in our lives, even though we experience trials and mistakes in our lives. We know that favoritism devalues people for whom Jesus Christ died, and indicates an ignorance of God’s values. The Bible says in James 2:1-4, “Dear brothers, how can you claim that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, if you show favoritism to some people and look down on others? For example, if a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, ‘You can stand over there if you like, or else sit on the floor, well, judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives.” The way we treat all of the people in our lives, family, friends and those we come in contact with every day, indicates whether or not our motives are guided by circumstances or Biblical principles.
May we learn the lesson that we will reap what we sow, and that the results of injustice and favoritism in all of our relationships can be tragic. May we also learn that all of the relationships in our lives are opportunities for the power of God to be displayed. Our prayer should be that God will help us to depend on His grace to be wise in dealing fairly with our children and students, and all of the people in our daily lives.