After apologizing for missing an appointment and attempting to find a new date on my calendar to hear the tech say, “You’re taking too long”, my first reaction was, “Well, I’m certainly not his favorite,” It had been a good while since I had experienced a put-off, but consequently, a pleasant memory replaced it inspiring Favoritism/Favors:

Jim would meet Kay and me at Wendy’s after ladies’ bible study, usually arriving first and chatting with Dixie, the cashier. When we’d be next in line and trying to remember what we usually ordered, Dixie would say “you usually get….” recalling faster than we could. She was friendly, pleasant, helpful, never hurried us or made us feel like we were a bother. We looked forward to Wednesdays, cognizant that Dixie valued us and our patronage. Occasionally, when we’d run into her at the grocery store, we exchanged hugs like old friends.

“Does anyone favor you?” I asked in an informal poll. “Not since my grandma died”; “I’ll have to think that over;” one guy just broke out into some hearty laughter which indicated ‘no way’ and “I’ve never been favored, anywhere”.

In researching favoritism,I was impressed with its close ties with the positive word favors as well as crucial negative differences which serve as wise reminders in endeavoring to keep favoritism attitudes in constant check.

Favoritism: The practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another. The showing of special favor—partiality; state or fact, in the meaning defined as favorite sense--dating back to 1763.  Favoritism often slips into common sibling conversations as it has been bantered around among the six of us. I asked John last week if he thought he was favored.  “Yes, after dad left, I became the man of the house and was favored for that.” I heartily agreed with him.  We both agreed that Mom favored the youngest, David.  And I thought she favored Mac and Jane. John agreed. “Did you think Daddy favored me”, I asked. “Not that I knew of”, John replied.  “I thought I was, because he brought me candy when he returned from his weekly travelling sales job.  “I didn’t know that,” John replied. “You didn’t know it because I never told anyone.  I didn’t want to share my almond bar.”

When Mom was in her mid-nineties and enjoying our sibling intra-state Assisted Living on Wheels, she made each of us feel especially favored because of how thankful she was to be living with her children as she requested.  We asked her the same question “Who is your favorite child, Mom”?  And, as usual, she had a ready and perfect one-liner-answer. “Why, the one I’m with.”

Reflect a minute. How about in your childhood family? What about in your present family? Favored at work? It’s no secret, that being favored often creates emotional problems.

Favor: approval, support, liking for someone or something. Approval, goodwill, kindness, advise, stand up for, endorse, benefit, benevolence, friendliness. An act of kindness beyond what is due or usual. “I’ve come to ask you a favor.”  No date was given for favor, but the word/idea not spawned drastic and positive life changes for Nehemiah but still reverberates in the world today.

Nehemiah was a Jewish layperson in the mid-5th century whose family was part of the 70-year Babylonian exile. Some scholars project that Nehemiah may have actually been born in Babylon. Even though an exile, Nehemiah had a prestigious position of cupbearer to King Artaxerxes which afforded him a certain amount of freedom and access to the king. When Jeremiah learned from a brother who was part of the Jewish remnant in Judah that survived the exile, that the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down and its gates burned, he wept, mourned and prayed for many days about the great trouble, wanting to go and help rebuild. He begged the God of heaven:” Give me success today by granting favor in the presence of the King”.

It all started when King Artaxerxes questioned Nehemiah about why he had such a sad face. Was he sick?  Nehemiah told him about the great trouble and disgrace of Jerusalem. When the king, along with the queen, asked “What is it you want,’ Nehemiah wasted no time in humbly, boldly and confidently sharing his desire in assisting his people in rebuilding Jerusalem but that he needed time off and help.  If it pleases the King; Send me to Judah. If it pleases the king, may I have letters for my safety and timber for building?  Neh. 2:5,7

The King was full of favors: he sponsored Nehemiah on his mission trip by granting him freedom from captivity, supplying letters of introduction, money, army officers and cavalry as well. Nehemiah wisely originally sought the Lord’s help in moving the king to grant the favors that would be needed to rebuild the ancient city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had no idea that the results of his courage and decisions in directing the rebuilding of Jerusalem would have far-reaching influence extending to the present day. God uses many people in taking care of those in need.

Favoritism carries a negative attitude of preference of one person over another creating jealousy, where favors given maintain a positive sharing of time, attention, encouragement, respect and resources.  Can you recall a time (s) when favors from others made it possible for you to get schooling, afford medicine, get a position, make a connection, handle a difficult situation, give you encouragement, comfort, bring you to safety, etc.?

This attitude of cooperation, caring and generosity was typical of our family of six as we linked arms to care for our quiet mother who had sacrificed dearly without complaint or apology to keep all of us under the same roof, years later I put together a family letter describing how we met her needs. (Just an aside, here. During the time when mom was 93 and living alone in our hometown, and she and I were chatting by phone, I was bemoaning the fact that we were so far away, she came out with a perfect one-liner: “Who moved?”)

The letter described each sibling’s special contribution toward Mom’s welfare.  Some listened, one took care of her finances, another planted flowers and helped her in the yard, another took care of her clothing needs, some of us kept her freezer full, and took care of her car needs. I more or less kept up with her medical appointments and meds. We all called her each week on a certain day and wrote weekly letters to her and to one another. And she wrote individual and long, sometimes three pages, to each of us every week until her wrist refused to cooperate. All that favor-flavored bond-building-memories occurring over decades still spill over us to this very day.

Do you delight in distributing favors?  When you see a person, do you anticipate a need? If you are not situated to see people and evaluate needs for favors that you could meet, how could you manufacture opportunities?  Sometimes, the only favor a person needs or wants is a smile, attention, a phone call, note, card or assistance of some type.  And often, that person is an able-bodied child or young person who also appreciates someone being aware of their simple want/need. We can all do something. That’s how God treats us.  Just as God heard Nehemiah’s requests, He listens to our requests and answers.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. Ps 116:1, 5 (NIV). Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…forever and ever!  Eph. 3:20,21 (NIV).