God has favourites

God has favourites. Wait, what? Baptist Minister and Head of Proximity, Tom Grant asks whether God has a sort of divine bias to areas affected by poverty. He reasons, if more of us captured this holy favouritism, we might just begin to see a renewal of the church nationwide

Bible Evangelism Poverty
Avatar photo Tom Grant
12th June 2024 3 minute read
Church building with people gathering.

When introducing myself to someone new for the first time the subject of children will inevitably arise, and the person will enquire whether I have any. The answer is yes – three fantastic children.  

Occasionally someone will jokingly ask me which one of my kids is my favourite. In this moment I find it tempting to randomly name one of the three just to see how they would respond. But the real answer, of course, is that I don’t have a favourite! I love them equally and endeavour to not show favouritism towards any of them, as much as they might say differently from time to time.  

I am by no means a perfect father, but it is hard to imagine a good parent who would be willing to explicitly state, or even implicitly acknowledge, that one of their children was their favourite and as such treat them preferentially to their other, inferior offspring! 

In the same way, the Bible is clear that our heavenly father shows no favouritism towards his children. Which I understand and wouldn’t question. He is a good, good father after all!  

However, when I read through my bible, I continually find examples of how God seemingly does show favouritism to a certain people group within society.  Time and time again, those on the margins, who are struggling and vulnerable, appear to capture God’s attention. This seemed so glaringly evident to one-time Bishop of Liverpool, David Sheppard, who went as far as to suggest God had, “a divine bias for the poor.” So maybe God does have a favourite child!? 

My experience as a parent has helped me to solve this theological conundrum. You see, while I don’t play favourites, from time to time there will be one of my kids who is on my mind, and in my prayers, more often than the other two. Why is that?  

Well, I’ve noticed that it is whichever one of my children is going through some form of hardship at that point in time. Perhaps they are being bullied at school, excluded from their friendship group, or are struggling in some other area of their lives. It is in those seasons that I find my heart breaking for that particular child. I find myself wanting to do whatever I can to ease their suffering, to fight against whatever injustice they are facing, even if that means storming the school playground to argue with a 9-year-old boy who has been mean to my son (Don’t worry I’ve never actually done this… my wife has always stopped me). 

This then is what we see throughout scripture. A good father, who has no favourites, but whose heart breaks for those of his children who are suffering, excluded, and facing injustice.  

So surely, we the church, God’s body here on earth, must also reflect this divine bias? Sadly, as we look at the church across the U.K., the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Congregations in low-income communities should be flourishing, well-resourced and faithfully served by the wider church. Yet the church invests by far the least per person on ministry in the most deprived areas and people in these communities are leaving the church four times more quickly than the rest of the country.

As I wrestle with this inconsistency, I’m reminded of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb to minister to his broken, crucified body.  Their master was dead, his body destroyed and abandoned by the disciples. Yet they went because of their great love for him, and they were rewarded by meeting their resurrected saviour.  

The Church, the body of Christ, in the lowest income communities in our nation, is often also broken, abandoned by Christians and in the most distressing cases seemingly dead.  

Yet if the wider Church would, out of its love for Jesus’ body, minister, and care for it, I am convinced that we too would experience, just like the women who visited the tomb, its resurrection to new life.   

If we, the church, would only focus our attention on those of God’s children who are experiencing poverty, injustice, and hardship, I believe we would begin to see the renewal of the whole church across our nation. 

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