Many beautiful metaphors are used in the Bible to describe us, and our relationship with God. Two points can tremendously help understand the answer to this question. The first is the use of the term “Father” in reference to God. It portrays the relationship God wants to have with His children, and what we are in relation to Him. All true born-again believers are His children. But what is most important to remember here is that He is a perfect parent. His love for us is perfect.
It is easy to look around and see or more accurately, think we see, what looks like favoritism on God’s part. But if we are privileged to learn the realities of the life of those who seem to be so much more blessed than we are, it becomes evident that the rosy picture we often see is not the real one.
As any loving parent knows, each child has completely individual needs and abilities to grow and learn. Those needs and abilities are all taken into consideration when guidance, discipline, gifts and responsibilities are given. Those who know children have heard the complaint, “That’s not fair!” more than once. But what is not, seen, by the child is that the parent in charge has carefully tried to choose the best course that will ultimately bring the most benefit to each child.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him”(Matthew 7:11).
Another metaphor refers to God as the potter and people as the clay. At first, this might sound demeaning, but if you have ever watched a potter or seriously worked with clay, you know what great care and attention goes into each piece. Many pots may look the same, but the potter can affectionately show you each and every variation. Many pots may look similar in form, but the potter can tell you how each one is made for a different, specific purpose. God is our perfect potter and is deeply attached to each individual creation and subsequent purpose.
In the book of Proverbs, we learn: “For whoso findeth me [wisdom] findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36).
Further, Solomon taught that we find the Lord’s grace by following his mercy and truth: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
All genuine believers have favor with the Lord, but can loose their blessings and favor. Believers should be concerned about falling out of God’s favor by replacing self-interests and selfish-motives with God’s interests. Nations and people have lost God’s blessings and favor by placing their own self-seeking interests before His. The book of Haggai in the Old Testament shows an important lesson on how to get and keep the blessing and favor of the Lord. Be sure to study it.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:23-25).
So finally, the answer to the question, “Does God play favorites with people?” is no. But we can loose blessings and favor by living for our own self-righteous interests instead of living for the Lord. As our perfectly wise parent and perfectly loving Creator, He sees in each of us the truly individual beauty and distinctive purpose for which we were made.