What a loaded word...lately, it has come up in conversation all around me and so of course my antennae began to tune in.
Many online dictionaries contain similar definitions for favor including this one:
n.) Friendly or favorable regard; approval or support.
As I searched www.blueletterbible.org for references to the word 'favor', I found that the majority of mentions were actually found in the Old Testament. I found this odd and then found it odd that I found this odd...
I guess, in my mind, I have associated favor with new covenant living. From many VBS and Awana meetings as a child, it has been drilled into me that grace is God's unmerited favor toward us. But grace is New Testament, right?
Except that as I read verse after verse and story after story, I realized that favor is all over the Old Testament. It became clear to me after awhile, however, that this favor was almost always attached with an action or to the performance of an individual or a group of people.
So, this is where the OT contrasts with the NT. We know that under the new covenant, we no longer must strive for favor in the sight of the Lord through our actions. We have unmerited favor through Jesus, because now we are seen by God not in our fallen condition, but through the covering of Jesus' blood.
But before I skip ahead, it is obvious to me that, even from the beginning, humans have been preoccupied with finding favor in the sight of God (or gods to the pagan mind). All across the world, humanity reaches toward their deities with their offerings of good works, acts of 'righteousness' and charity toward others.
The good news of what we have is clearly the news that we have found acceptance, approval and favor in the sight of our God...not through our striving, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
...do we really live like that? I mean, think about it. How preoccupied are we with seeking others' approval?
To be perfectly honest, I see a lot of people seeking approval and acceptance from fellow humans. I think the root of this is found in the tangible vs. the intangible. I can't see God's approval and favor for me like I can with other people.
What a trap, huh? I'm sure the enemy is all over this one. If he can keep us preoccupied with getting those 'attaboy's, we won't find satisfaction in knowing that the approval we seek is already ours in Christ.
It occurred to me this week that this is the issue at the heart of the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:38-42). As I reread this passage, I realized that the 'good thing' that Jesus spoke of in regard to Mary was His favor.
He didn't rebuke Martha because she was too busy doing stuff to sit and listen to His words. Well, not JUST for that. He was speaking to her motivation. She was running around doing things desperately seeking approval and acceptance.
The difference is that Mary sat at His feet, not because she was lazy or unconcerned with her responsibilities. She sat at Jesus' feet because she understood that His approval had nothing to do with anything she could do.
This approval trap is dangerous for so many reasons. It keeps us busy doing things that won't get us what we need. It takes our eyes off of the only One who can satisfy those needs. And it often turns our eyes to those who seem to have tons of favor...and we despise that it is theirs and desire for it to be ours.
When Martha went to Jesus with her complaint, she was furious that Mary sat and did nothing and yet seemed to have all the favor. How many times have you seen success or victory in a situation in your life only to have someone else come along and scoff your efforts, steal your 'credit' or slam your character?
Too many times to count for me.
I believe the root of that jealous and covetous behavior is a lack of understanding of God's favor for each of us. There is not a limited amount of favor...there is more than enough to go around. But sadly, some people are so deceived as to how and where to get this favor that they think if someone has what they want that they must do as they do--or worse, that they must out-do what the 'favored' ones do.
My goodness, what kind of world would it be if we actually understood the favor that covers our lives when we are in Christ!!! We wouldn't worry about anything but bringing others into that favor.
The truth is...our favor has nothing to do with what we do and everything to do with what Jesus has done for us. When we really grasp that--first, our need for atonement and second, the fulfillment of that need in Jesus--there is no question as to whether or not we are favored.
We will be convinced of our favor in the sight of the Lord when we are convinced that we can do nothing to get it.