"I charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to follow these principles without bias, and without playing favorites.” 1 Timothy 5:21 CEB
You’ve probably seen the scenario in movies or on television. Teams are being selected for a pick-up game (any sport really) and it is a painstaking process. The obviously gifted athletes are chosen first, then the best friends, then those who look like they may have potential, until the last person is standing all alone, unpicked. This is the time when the captain who is left with the final pick says, “Okay, you can be on the team too!” The person who is chosen first is always going to feel like they are special. The person chosen last is going to feel like—well—a loser. Those who are chosen toward the middle of the pack are, quite possibly, relieved they were not the last one chosen for the team. Have you ever been a part of those being chosen for a team in this manner? Where were you chosen? How did you feel about when you were chosen?
There are many ways this scene can be interpreted. It could be interpreted in terms of wisdom and the captain must choose wisely to win the game. We could interpret the scene in terms of how the captain handles his friends. Of course, we also may interpret it in terms of the ones being selected. At its core the scene has to do with the concept of favoritism. It’s fair to say that we all have played favorites at some point in our life. We have favorite foods, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite television shows, favorite sports teams, and the list goes on and on. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having favorites when it comes to these things. There is a problem when we play favorites in relationships.
Paul tells Timothy to follow the principles he has been taught “without bias and without playing favorites.” The Apostle Paul is really saying two things. First, follow ALL the principles, not just part of them (or your favorites). Second, don’t show special favor toward any one person. Timothy is to follow all the principles he has been taught and not pick and choose. Timothy also is to treat everyone equally. It really doesn’t matter who it is, the principles of the Gospel apply to everyone equally. When it comes to our relationships everyone should be treated equally in terms of our faith. Paul does say that the elders and leaders (including Timothy) are to take these things very seriously. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone else can pick and choose what they follow. It doesn’t mean that we can treat some people with love and respect, according to the teachings of Jesus, and other people poorly. We need to apply the teachings of Jesus equally to everyone.
I know what some people are thinking—should I treat my wife the same as I treat the server at the restaurant? Yes! We should treat everyone equally when it comes to our faith. Your relationship is different with your spouse than a server or a coworker or even a friend. One thing is held in common in all our relationships—the way we live out the Gospel. We all live out our faith without partiality according to the teachings of Jesus (and of Paul). The role we play in each relationship will be different, but the way we live out our faith in each is the same. We are to love everyone without playing favorites. Remember the words of Jesus Christ when he told his followers to love even your enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to show everyone the same love that Jesus has shown us.
Will you live out your faith today without playing favorites?
This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of relationships. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!