If God has blessed you with more than one child, do you have a favourite? If you answered 'yes', how does that make you feel?
My wife and I have three wonderful children, and we love each of them dearly. At times, or for a season, it may seem that one is a little more lovely than the other(s), and we may find ourselves having a “favourite”. One child may be more like one of us and we may therefore be drawn to them as we see little versions of ourselves growing up and struggling with life. Or perhaps we find the child who is least like us much easier to be with.
Is this healthy? Is it right? Is it Godly?
Parental favouritism in the Bible
There are certainly examples of parents favouring children in the Bible that are worth thinking about, for example Genesis 25:28:
Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob.
This favouring caused tension later in their lives, with the drama of the inheritance of the birthright and the separation of the boys.
Further in Genesis we learn of Jacob’s favouritism. From Genesis 37:3:
Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than his others sons, because he was born to him in his old age.
As the eldest child, I can attest that it sometimes feels as if the baby of the family holds a special place in a parent’s heart – but since my wife is the baby of her family, she will no doubt say the same can be said of the eldest!
Joseph suffered and was sold into slavery and imprisonment because of the jealousy of his brothers and his father was distraught. In fact, the jealousy brought most of Joseph’s brothers to a point where they considered murdering him. Through all of this, God was still working for the good of all of them.
I am not aware that God passes judgement on this favouring by Isaac or Jacob but it certainly doesn’t seem to have improved the relationships within the families.
The danger of choosing a favourite
In our lives, we all have friends and people that we especially love to spend time with. There are always people we find easier to connect with, easier to ‘read’ and understand and often just easier to relax and have a good time with. In this respect, having favourites appears to be a very natural thing, and something not limited to families. When it is our children that we are discussing, we should heed the warnings within the stories above. Obvious favouritism can be one of the first causes of real long term jealousy amongst siblings - which in turn can create a hardening within those who feel less valued. If the favouritism is very obvious (as it surely was in the Jacob – Joseph case) then the risks of harm to the favoured child are real also!
God loves us all unconditionally (without favourites as far as I know), and as a father it is my role to lead my family by His example, and model God’s love for us (see this article for more on this).
If we have a favourite child, then it seems that we would do well to keep that favouritism to ourselves (i.e. between husband and wife), and make sure that each of our children know we love them unconditionally for the special person God has made them. We can cherish the different relationships we have with each of our children – and we can marvel at the incredibly different personalities God has create through us. Hopefully this parenting challenge will grow us in our ability to relate to God’s people and teach us how to show our Christian love to others – even those who we might find ‘difficult’ at times.
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