When God Plays Favorites

When God Plays Favorites

The question was out of Romans, Why would God choose to hate one person and not another?  – Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” – Romans 9:13. First Methodist Houston is in a series called Ask Me Anything and someone took the time to ask a thoughtful question, in essence – Why would God hate?

In this section of Romans, Paul is arguing just because someone is an Israelite by lineage that does not truly make them an Israelite. For Paul, whether one is part of the chosen people is a matter of faith, not genetics, and in Paul’s day this thought represented a major shift. Today, it would be as if we said, ‘what makes someone an American is not if they are born on American soil but if he or she loves freedom in their hearts.’ 

Which leads Paul to an interesting theological point of which Romans 9:13 is a part – God can choose to do whatever God wants.

How comfortable with that are you? Really?

Out of the gate I want to say God is not in the hate business. God loves both Esau and Jacob.  In the Genesis story of Jacob and Esau, however, God clearly favors Jacob.

To summarize the story, Jacob and Esau are twin brothers with Esau barely being the oldest. In the customs of the day, Esau would be the heir and the younger Jacob would play a supporting role to his older brother. The two brothers are also very different. Esau is the rugged outdoors type, while Jacob is to say it plainly a mama’s boy. Rebekah, the mom, plays favorites and concocts a plot to help the younger Jacob steal the birthright of the older and not so bright Esau. Welcome to a Biblical Game of Thrones.

We should also take a step back and remember that the two brothers are symbols of what was going on in Israel at the time. Genesis 25:23 tells us,

Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Jacob represents a settled nation that will live in cities and cultivate the land, while Esau represents a nation that wanders and survives on hunting and gathering. What Genesis is telling us, I believe, is that God favored Jacob. We should also remember God worked to reconcile Jacob and Esau, Genesis 32.

Paul, I believe, would have done better to take this approach. God has no hatred of people. God, however, does favor and bless. And while I believe everyone can be blessed in some way, not everyone is going to have every blessing.

God blesses whom God chooses? Am I okay with that? Yes, because I see in Jesus whom God chooses to favor. The poor. The lost. The hurting. The suffering. The least.

Jesus shows favor on the broken, and I believe when we use our blessings for their true purposes all God’s people will be brought back together with Jesus in the lead.