Did papa Samuel think to himself something like this?

I’m old and I must soon pass on the torch. I want to pick out strong leaders for Israel. I can see no more capable and gifted men than my two dear sons. Goodness gracious, my sons are good! Joel and Abiah (Abijah) are tops in my books. My little boys have become men with so much potential. They’re smart, honest, fair, and I just know everyone will fall in love with them. I’d be so thrilled to see my sons step-up to the plate and hit a home-run.

As great a judge and prophet as Samuel was, he had a major blind-spot.  With deep spiritual insight and a love for the Lord, he was the best judge Israel ever had. But, like so many others, when it came to his family, his judgment was impaired. He absolutely had no blind-spot when it came to the sons of others. He could definitely see the greed, deficiencies and departure in the lives of Eli’s sons, but (and, it is a big but) what about his own?

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. 1Samuel 8:1-3

Parents tend to have blind spots when it comes to their own children. And, understandably so, because there’s no one else in the world we love more. But that sure does not mean they’re perfect or equipped to do what we want to see them do. And, it sure does not mean we are justified in preferring them above other believers. And it sure does not mean that we should use our position or influence to push or even nudge them forward.

Parents do no one a favour when they’re always looking for ways to ensure their son or daughter is noticed or chosen to fill a Sunday School vacancy, or for the door-welcoming post or to preach the Gospel or to teach or lead a Bible Study.

Preferential treatment for family members is a natural inclination but it sure is not a spiritual trait.  It always causes division and strife. It is always unhealthy. Let’s face it – nepotism is not a positive word. As slick and smooth and as subtle as we may try to be in tactfully and tastefully and discreetly putting in a good word for our daughter or our son – be sure of this – others aren’t naïve! The unmistakable fragrance of favouritism is easily detected.

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face. My son Billy has a real keen shepherding instinct. I think he has tremendous potential to be a future overseer in this local church. People say I’m biased. Not at all! He’s just plain good. I love listening to him teach the Scriptures and I can tell that others do too. He just has a real heart for the sheep.”

That’s the blatant overt style. The toned-down and much more subtle version goes like this:

“I was really taken back when an elderly sister told me that Billy would make a perfect elder. I guess I’ve felt that way too; but, of course, you know as a father – I would never want to be seen as promoting my own. But to be honest, sometimes I wonder why they aren’t trying to work him in to more leadership responsibilities. He spends hours reading and studying his Bible. I feel like a spiritual dwarf when he and I discuss the Scriptures.”

If you overhear your parents putting in a plug for you or showering you with praise in front of others or even behind your back, do yourself and them a favour – respectfully tell them to quit it. It doesn’t go over very well. It prompts a not-so-nice kind of reflex.

If you are hoping your dad will be able to pull some strings to get you somewhere in the service of the Lord, then forget it. You are going about it the wrong way entirely. You are heading for disaster and you will be the cause of division.

Even though the context for Paul’s words to Timothy in 1Timothy 5:21 pertain to discipline in a local church, can you think of any other context where partiality or favouritism would be okay?

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 favoritism. 1Timothy 5:21

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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