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“Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Gen. 25:28
Isaac and Rebekah created problems in their own family by playing favourites with their children.
Isaac loved Esau. In many ways Esau was opposite to what Isaac was himself and Esau’s rugged “manly” ways appealed to him…especially when it put Isaac’s preferred food on the table. Rebekah, on the other hand, loved Jacob. He seemed to be more of the gentle stay-at-home type. At least they each loved different children. If, as happens in some families, both parents prefer the same child it becomes a very toxic environment as one child feels rejected by both parents.
This competition between Isaac and Rebekah drove a wedge in their relationship or maybe simply increased one which was already there. Like many newlyweds, their relationship had begun well enough, but somewhere along the way something happened. Maybe it was the disappointment of Rebekah not being able to have children for so long. Maybe it was the pressure on Rebekah, as a young woman, suddenly being in charge of large household and not having the support of her own family to help with it. Whatever it was a certain distance had developed between them. We see this in the fact the Rebekah was so willing to deceive her own husband in order to get her way.
Playing favourites in a family is always wrong. As parents, we are human and some personalities or traits appeal to us more than others, but our children should never see a hint of any preference we may feel. Each one should be and feel equally loved and accepted. To do otherwise is to create tension and division in the home and harm both children.
Does this mean that all children are to be treated exactly the same? Is everyone equal? It is impossible for everything to be equal for everyone all the time. For example, some socialist countries want to have everyone with equal income, but that means unequal work loads. The hard working have their money confiscated to supply for the lazy.
Let’s consider our Perfect Example. How does God the Father treat His children? In what ways are they equal and in what ways are they not equal?
All God’s redeemed children are equally loved and cared for. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, powerful or weak, etc. They all have equal access to the Father’s presence. They can all rest in the fact that God protects them and will ultimately see justice done when they are wronged. They all have equal opportunity to reach the potential for which they were created.
But because each one of God’s redeemed children is also different, they are treated individually. In fact, to treat them all exactly the same would be unjust and create inequality. God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, works with each child according to their willingness to obey, their individual traits, the specific purpose He has given them in life and other factors.
In our own families, each child should feel loved and accepted independent of their actions. However, they should realize [the earlier the better] that their actions will determine their experience. For example, if one child responds quickly and genuinely to discipline they will need less of it than the strong-willed child. That is not to say one is “better” than the other. They each have their strengths and weaknesses which have to be dealt with individually.
Raising a family is probably the most challenging and potentially rewarding thing a person will ever do. It requires self-sacrifice, the willingness to be misunderstood, the courage to do the right thing and much more. [Which is why many choose abortion - the selfish flight from responsibility through murder.] None of us will ever be perfect parents or reach perfect balance, but each of our children must feel the unconditional love and acceptance that comes from family - even when hard decisions must be made. There should never be a shadow of unequal love to divide parents and children.
In Isaac and Rebekah’s case their actions destroyed the family allowing deception, betrayal and even death threats to enter their home. When Rebekah sent Jacob away, for his own protection, she thought it would only be a few years before he returned. She never saw her favourite again.