Drake has a lyric in one of his songs that says, “I wanna thank God for workin’ way harder than Satan, He’s playin’ favorites, it feels amazin.’” So many social media posts used that line as a caption, but does God play favorites?
I cringe every time I see someone post something on social media saying that God was playing favorites when He created them or God is playing favorites when they show up to an event looking fly, or something like that.
This idea couldn’t be further from the truth though. God does not play favorites. This isn’t my opinion. It’s in His word. Ephesians 6:9 says, “And there is no favoritism with him.” In Acts chapter 10 verse 34, Peter even said “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”
So, no. God is not playing favorites with you when you step out looking good for your birthday.
I think the misunderstanding stems from 1) our mistaken understanding of God’s favor and what it actually is and 2) our inclinations to engage in comparison.
In this episode I’m going to briefly break down what the favor of God is and how it operates, then I’ll take a deeper dive into the good, the bad, and the ghetto of comparison. We often hear people talk about how comparison is the thief of joy but it ends there, right? Like they don’t really elaborate. In this episode, we’re exploring many facets of comparison. And yes, there is a good side to comparison, and I will show you how to use it to your advantage.
But let’s jump into favor first.
Does God Play Favorites?
Let’s start with favor. The dictionary definition of favor is partiality and having bias towards one thing over another. It’s showing extra kindness in comparison to the treatment of others.
That is not the Biblical version of favor though. When the bible speaks of favor, what it is really referring to is God giving us the ability to do something that is otherwise humanly impossible or unexplainable. In other words, the favor of God is what God does for you that you cannot do for yourself.
God’s favor doesn’t have anything to do with our treatment in comparison to someone else and it isn’t anything we can earn or hustle our way into receiving. God’s favor is completely undeserved and unmerited. There is nothing we can do to earn or merit his favor.
Now that we have cleared up the concept of favor, let’s dive into comparison.
Comparison is Natural
To further assess the question of does God play favorites we need to explore comparison. Before we get into the weeds of comparison, I want to first say that comparison is natural and plays a huge role in how we learn. It is natural for humans and even animals to compare themselves with others of the same species. We are constantly scanning our environment to see what’s appropriate and what we should or should not be doing.
The human brain has this inherent need to make connections and associations. In fact, our brain has mirror neurons that allow us to observe and understand the actions of others and use that understanding to replicate the actions of the person we observed.
Pitfalls of Comparison
There is a scripture that says, “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” That’s Romans chapter 12, verse 6 (MSG)
This scripture shows us that comparison can lead to two different emotions: envy and pride. We’re either enviously comparing ourselves to others or pridefully comparing ourselves to others.
Let’s go a bit deeper and discuss how each of these work, starting with envy.
Envy is a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.
Not only is envy a sin, but it is insulting to God. When you envy other people you insult the God who created you in His perfect image. It’s a slap in the face.
Some common indicators of envy are 1) the tendency to praise others too much or being overly friendly when first meeting someone; the operative word here being overly. Just because someone is friendly in general, doesn’t make them envious. 2) unusual levels of insecurity in a person can be an indicator of envy as well.
If after reading this post assessing does god play favorites, and you are asking yourself these questions and you notice you have been envious of someone or you are experiencing it now, here are ways to overcome it.
Celebrate what God is doing in the lives of others
Instead of being upset, jealous, or envious when someone else wins, celebrate their wins with them. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. We don’t get a pass because we may not be winning in the same area. If someone gets a promotion but you didn’t get the promotion you applied for? Doesn’t matter. You are not exempt. You must still rejoice with them for their promotion. The important thing to remember here is that what God does for someone else has nothing to do with what He will do for you.
Be grateful for where you are right now in your journey. We often pray for things and fail to realize when we are living out the things we prayed for in the past. Practice mindfulness and being more present. Appreciate the journey, because at the end of the day happiness isn’t something that happens to you. Happiness is a choice.
Trust God and His Process
At the root of envy is our lack of trust in God. We don’t trust Him to be fair and just, and we don’t trust Him to do for us what He’s done for others. You learn to trust God by becoming more intimate with Him. Listen to Him and be obedient with what He tells you. Read His word in the Bible and become more familiar with His nature. It’s difficult to trust a God that you think is out to harm you and treat you unfairly.
The other consequence of envy is pride. Pride is self-esteem that exceeds reasonable limits. Pride is self-esteem that is so outrageously high that it’s really conceit disguised as self-esteem and confidence.
It’s also what makes you feel like you are better than someone else because things seem to be going well for you at the moment. This is the part of comparison that’s rarely talked about.
The result of this is that you will eventually find yourself in this secret competition with others. It also will likely lead to arrogance, which precedes your downfall.
This is Biblical. Proverbs says “Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall.”
When you realize that everyone was created for their own unique purpose you will move differently. It’s inevitable and it’s freeing. It’s classic, “stay in your lane” vibes.
As promised, here are some tips for when it can be beneficial to look at others.
The Proper Way to “Compare”
Study the processes of others, don’t try to emulate their end results.
There is a great deal that we can learn from other people. That’s why some books exist. People are literally giving us the game to be better humans and how to do it. Pay attention to that. Not the curated images you perceive.
Social facilitation and motivation.
Social facilitation is where the presence of others leads people to perform faster and better than they would otherwise. Even if people aren’t collaborating, or competing, the mere fact that others are present improves behavior.
I didn’t make this up. I learned this from Jonah Berger. Jonah is a professor at an Ivy League university in the US and he’s one of my favorite academics. He’s super smart, laid back, and really knows how to break down information in a way that is easily digestible and understood.
He touches on this concept in his book Invisible Influence.
“Animals behave the same way. For example, rats drink faster and explore more when other rats are around. Monkeys work harder on a simple task when other monkeys are present, and dogs run faster in pairs than alone. Ants dig three times as much sand when working alongside other ants, even if they aren’t cooperating.”
This is why having an accountability partner is so effective. Your peers improve your performance by acting as a commitment device and as a motivator to work harder. Not because they are pushing you to work harder with their words, but because of their mere presence around you.
As I wrap up this post exploring does god play favorites, I want to leave you with this last tidbit.
In her book, Successful Women Think Differently, Valorie Burton says that when you are tempted to compare yourself to others or condemn yourself for what you have or haven’t done, you should ask yourself these 4 questions to help you be more gentle with yourself and start embracing the process:
- Are your expectations realistic? Yeah you should expect success but it’s important not to set your expectations so high that they are rarely, if ever, met. You need to give yourself a realistic timeline.
- How far have you come? Everyone’s circumstances are unique. Yeah, you could’ve been further along but you’ve had more obstacles than others, so give yourself more credit for the progress you’ve made.
- Where are you in the process? Remember that Progress is a process. The last question is my personal favorite.
- What are you doing right? Make a list of what you’re doing right. This can be a reality check and an energy boost. Stop making comparisons. Successful people use social comparison in ways that bolster happiness. Notice those who are further along in their journey and find inspiration and lessons in their journey.
I want to leave you with this scripture, “You should each judge your own conduct. If it is good, then you can be proud of what you yourself have done, without having to compare it with what someone else has done.” That’s from Galatians 6:4 (GNT)
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
I hope this gives you the freedom you need to really show up in your purpose and in your own lane. Blinders on, with complete tunnel vision. Keep your eyes on your own paper, friend.
If someone asks you does God play favorites, you can confidently tell them no.
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