It’s Friday – the end of our podcast week; and it’s been a great pleasure to look at Chapters 4 and 5 of 1Timothy with you.
Next week you will have the even greater pleasure of my husband Alan continuing our podcasts and this journey through Paul’s letters to Timothy.
Today, though, we’re looking at 1 Timothy Chapter 5, verses 17-25, and our particular focus will be verse 21 which says,
“I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.”
The Passion translation phrases this as, “without bias, prejudice or favouritism.”
If you have grown up in a family with more than 1 child, or indeed you are parenting more than 1 child; you will no doubt be aware of this little thing called ‘sibling rivalry.’
And in all cases of sibling rivalry, there comes a point where one child, one day, will say something like, “It’s so unfair. You’re so mean. You like them more than me. They’re your favourite!”
When our children were much younger, we bought a book called “You’re All My Favourites.” The synopsis on Amazon reads like this, “This enchanting story tells of the unconditional love between a family of bears. Mummy and Daddy bear reassure their 3 little bears that each is equally special. But the little bears start to wonder: do their differences mean that one is loved less? But after some love and affection, the bears are satisfied that they really are all their parents favourites!”
Jacob, Max and Faith – you may have outgrown the book, but you are all still my favourites!
Showing bias, prejudice or favouritism can create toxic relationships, but these behaviours and attitudes have spread much further in society than just being an issue within families.
Our news feeds are full of examples: discussions about unconscious prejudice in the treatment of Meghan Markle, accusations of BBC bias during the Brexit debates, ongoing issues regarding the pay gap between men and women, and attacks on Chinese nationals due to the coronavirus.
These attitudes and behaviours cause damage and create mistrust. They lead to social isolation and negative feelings of self worth, and can feed the tendency to constantly compare ourselves; to feel undervalued and over looked.
So in all of this, what does it mean to live as a Christian and to act “without bias, prejudice or favouritism?”
Firstly, it needs us to have a strong and secure understanding of the Gospel.
The Good News of Jesus is that God says to each and every one of us,
‘You are all my favourites! You are all made in my image, and I sent my only Son to die for every person who has ever lived, because I could not bear to lose a relationship with a single one of you.’
In Deuteronomy 10, verse 17, we are reminded that God never shows favouritism: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”
And Paul reminds us in Galatians 3 verse 18: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
There is no bias, prejudice or favouritism in the Gospel – it is a good news story of justice, kindness, righteousness and freedom. Of all people having equal access to and relationship with, their Heavenly Father. And no-one is left out or excluded from this invitation.
Secondly, as we are called to become more like Jesus, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to live and act without partiality or favouritism ourselves.
For those in the workplace, how can you build an environment that values every person on the team for who they are, not just the results that they produce. How can you encourage and invest in those who might not have the same personality, or ways of thinking and working, as you do? Do you subconsciously show favouritism and bias towards the ideas and opinion of some people because you just find them easier to get on with?
In a podcast that I wrote last year, I talked about the book ‘The Art of Neighbouring.’ There was a really challenging chapter in it, which said that if we want to see our neighbourhoods transformed by the gospel then we need to be intentional about building relationships with those neighbours that we might find difficult or awkward, and not just connect with those whom we are more partial to spending time with, our favourite neighbours.
And this then leads in to asking some difficult questions about how these issues of bias, prejudice and favouritism might play out in our midweek communities.
At church, do we choose to hang out with people just like us?
Maybe, deep down, we really like our cell group or cluster because it is full of people just like us?
Perhaps others who want to join our groups would find it a challenge, because the existing relationships are so strong, that it is hard for new people, different people, to break into these existing friendships and find a place of community?
These are big questions – because bias, prejudice and favouritism are big issues. They are big issues in society and they are big issues in the church – both now and in New Testament times. But the challenge for each one of us is to look at our own hearts and our own lives and to continually strive to act with integrity in all situations and to all people.
Let us pray using the words of Psalm 139:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen
BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 5:17-25
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’ Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden for ever.