After our Mother’s Day service I heard a friend teasing someone about being mom’s favorite. It brought to mind thoughts of our children’s sermon from that morning. Four days before in our Wednesday night ministry for kids we just had finished up a series on Genesis. Our focus was on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how God used these people in history. Our key verse was Genesis 50:20 where Joseph said to his brothers “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good.” (Even in the inevitable bad times “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28))
Joseph was referring to the fact that his brothers were jealous and wanted at one point to kill him. Instead they threw him into an empty cistern but when a caravan of Ishmaelites was passing by they decided to sell him into slavery. What caused such family division? Genesis 37:3-4 explains that Jacob “loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” The sad reality was that their father caused this strife among brothers.
It seems that Jacob did not learn from the experience of his childhood. He was a twin but was born second to Esau. His parents each had a favorite. “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28) Rebekah helped her son Jacob trick her husband into giving him the blessing meant for the firstborn son. After this Esau held a grudge against his brother because of the scheme and plotted to kill Jacob.
Many of us probably have seen the damage that can be done to children who believe they are less loved than their siblings by one parent or both. The emotional wounds might be deep and long-lasting. This also is likely to cause tension among siblings. Of course, there are situations where a child perceives favoritism when none actually exists. In those cases parents must continually try to lessen or alleviate those misperceptions. As parents, we must do our best to maintain impartiality. We should strive to divide our attention, praise and gifts in a fair manner from early on. Often there is one child, young or old, who needs more help or encouragement at certain times of life. This is only natural. There might be a child with whom one parent shares more common interests or relates to more easily. This is also natural. As parents, however, we must recognize the crucial role we play in the emotional and spiritual development of our children. God loves us unconditionally and we can be a part of demonstrating that kind of love to our kids. After reading Brennan Manning years ago I was struck with his statement that God was “very fond” of him. For a while, when all three of our kids were still at home, I would make a habit of telling each one “I’m particularly fond of you.” Let us pray for wisdom and discernment to make every child know the value we see in her/his giftedness and that we will love them no matter what. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)