Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Salvation Army: Do not Show Favoritism, a vital theological concept

This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

"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." -1 Timothy 5:21

The concept of giving special benefits or special assistance or deference to a particular group is on it's face a tempting proposition. We feel, we're going to help people who are hurting. There is a legitimate desire behind it, to help and do good. We feel, we're going to right historic wrongs. We're going to stand up for the little guy. We're going to make a difference.

These are generally good ideas. Jesus our Lord himself was very focused on helping those in need, meeting needs, healing the outcast, and reaching out to the lowly. 

Yet we also find a vital concept in scripture, old and new testament alike, it's the concept of "do not show favoritism." 

Showing favoritism in the old testament is worded like this: Don't show favor to the poor man or to the rich man in court, but do justice. In the new testament, we're told showing favoritism is legitimately considered a sin.  

It says in James, James 2:9 "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."

My ears perk up when the word of God so clearly indicates: This is not right. I'm listening, because, after preaching to others, I don't want to disqualify myself. I want to make sure I'm doing justice rightly. 

We in The Salvation Army need to be very careful that we fulfill our mission statement of "meeting human needs in His name without discrimination."

We must never show favoritism or disregard based on someone's standing, if they're related to someone we know, if they hold a particular ideology, or if they're financially wealthy, or very poor, if we like their personality or not. Do not show favoritism. That's so vital.

We can't favor someone because of the color of their skin either. In either direction. We should never favor someone for a position because they are Caucasian and that's what we're comfortable with. We should also never show favoritism to someone who is African American or Asian or Middle-Eastern because we want to show how inclusive we are. 

Be certain of this: Either approach is equally sinful before God.

Leviticus 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."

And when I see us doing either of those things, I tremble for the leaders making those decisions. Because it is a deadly sin, one singled out in the New Testament numerous times. 

We must return to a basic concept: equality under God. Simple, yet profound. Do not treat people differently based on any particular difference. Even gender. Even race. Even class. Even wealth. Even criminal history. Even philosophy. Even social media posts. But treat all people equally under the law of God. 

If we show favoritism in attempts to correct perceived historic wrongs, we may find ourselves condemned as law breakers as it says in James. If we show favoritism based on preference to a particular race, gender, or class, we equally find ourselves condemned as law breakers according to James. 

Do not judge with deference. Do not accept a bribe. Do not show favoritism based on familial connection, nepotism is sin just as much as favor based around race or class or gender. 

Instead, keep a stubborn sense in your eyes and heart, of giving position based on ability, but only in the leading of the will of God, by the Spirit of God. Who is most qualified? That is the standard that God gave to Moses, when Moses was to select certain leaders to judge cases over the different groups and tribes. 

“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (Exodus 18:21).

What are the requirements? They must be capable. That's meritocracy. Appointed based on merit. They must fear God and be trustworthy as well. They must refuse bribes and dishonest gain. And there you have it. In leadership, capability, merit is the key stock to consider when making the choice. 

In providing help and service to those in need, we should help everyone, and the word says, particularly, fellow Christians. That's a principle from Galatians 6:10, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith."