Beware the Sin of Partiality! (Gen 37:1-11)
We are warned in 1 Corinthians 12 and in the Epistle of James that partiality is a very serious sin. James 2:4-5 teaches us against partiality, as James 2:3 illustrates how we can so easily commit the sin of partiality in our everyday life.1. Manifestation of partiality (Gen 37:2b-3)
Joseph was the first biological son of Rachel and was the son of Jacob’s old age. Jacob favoured Joseph more than his other sons. Jacob showed his partiality by giving Joseph a coat of many colours. This coat (an outer garment) had a “dispersion” of colours, i.e. it was fanciful and beautiful. Such a coat implied its wearer was a person of nobility or authority. Thus, Jacob was showing others that he was giving authority to Joseph.
What Jacob did is a reflection of what his own parents (Isaac and Rebekah) did. Isaac favoured Esau while Rebekah favoured Jacob. Although Jacob had experienced partiality himself, yet he still showed partiality to his sons.2. Consequences of partiality (Gen 37:4-11)
Partiality leads to envy (Gen 37:4b). The partiality that Jacob showed Joseph was very apparent. Joseph’s brothers could not speak peaceably to him. They were so filled with hatred and bitterness that they could not have any peaceful interaction with him. Genesis 37:11 reveals that the brothers even envied Joseph. The partiality of Jacob resulted in envy, bitterness and jealousy in the family.
Likewise in the Corinthian church. Partiality brought about disunity and competitiveness within the church as they exercised their spiritual gifts. They lost sight of the purpose and direction of the church. Thus, Apostle Paul had to teach them to have the right attitude towards one another given their different gifts. Also in James chapter 3, Apostle James warns us of partiality that will bring about wars and fighting from within. Thus, we must be very careful in the exercising of spiritual gifts. It must not bring about competition in the church.
Another consequence of partiality is that Joseph’s brothers despised the rightful authority that God had given to Joseph. Likewise, in the church, partiality will cause people to lose respect and disregard those of authority that God has given to the church. This in turn means that the people despised God’s authority.
May we guard ourselves against partiality by looking to the glory of Christ and seeking to glorify Christ (c.f. James 2:1).