To show partiality is not good, because for a piece of bread a man will transgress. Proverbs 28:21
Favoritism and partiality is characterized as not being good in this proverb. In order to understand this we have to have a worldview that sees mankind as fallen and sinful. The modern worldviews that see man as basically good will not fully grasp this. They blame things on the environment in which someone was reared - or on a lack of education. If this were the case, then the most priviledged and educated would be the godliest among us - right?
The reason partiality is not good - is because men and woman can be bought. The proverb that we are looking at today says they can be bought for a piece of bread. That is cheap. But we only need to remember Esau to be reminded that he sold the birthright of a very rich family for a bowl of stew. The offer of immediate gratification will trump the mind of a sinful man that should counsel him to see the full price of what he is about to do.
Bribery in the matter of judges must have been as common then as it is today among politicians. The Old Testament is filled with admonitions to even the least official who would pervert justice for a bribe. Today it is a rare thing to see a man in public office who has not been bought with money donated to his campaign. What we MUST remember is that if a man can be bought for a price - who's to say that he cannot be bought by someone offering a little more?
God's admonition to us is not the size of the bribe - but whether the heart can be bought at all. The Scriptures warn us that he who is unfaithful in a little - will be unfaithful no matter how much is offered. The trustworthy man is the one who rejects any kind of bribe. His desire is to offer justice based on the Word of God. He knows that truth will prevail no matter how much money is thrown his way. He also knows that there will be a day when even judges will face the judgment. We read of that day in Psalm 2 as God gives the following admonition to the kings and judges of the earth, "Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" Even judges will be judged - and rulers have One who rules over them. Thus the wise man is one who recognizes the ultimate authority of God, who submits to Him, and who makes his decisions, not in light of the bread or bribe set before him, but in light of day when every judgment will be judged itself.
But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, And a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips Who gives a right answer. Proverbs 24:25-26
We continue with Solomon's comments on partiality and favoritism. There is a blessing that comes to those who do what is right in these situations. We are told of those who "rebuke" the wicked. These are the men who give a right answer when faced with issues of justice and righteousness. Let's take a couple of minutes to learn what they do - and how they are rewarded.
To "rebuke" here means more than just speaking a simple word of correction. The Hebrew word is "yakah" which means to argue, convince, convict, judge, or reprove. This word usually has the meaning of clarifying where someone stands morally. This involves making arguments to establish the ground upon which a moral judgment is made. The word is used of God's reproof and rebuke of the wicked and sinful. When He rebukes, there is no doubt the right-ness of His Words - and the biblical reason behind them.
When we rebuke the wicked - it is not just a simple statement that we make. This blessed man comes to the wicked with wisdom, with understanding, and with arguments to help the wicked grasp why their actions are wrong. Christians need to embrace this kind of rebuke and reproof as they seek to convince those who stand in biblically unjust positions of the truth. It is not enough just to say, "I rebuke you for your stand!" The wise man comes with ordered and convincing arguments. He does not come just to state that a position is wrong and ungodly - he makes a case that convinces and convicts the one holding it.
We are told to this kind of man there will be delight and blessing. These will come as he experiences first the blessing of God who delights in wisdom and justice. Knowing the smile of God - and His approval of our works and words is more to us than the favor of all the nations. Please understand that when a godly man takes a stand worldlings will hate him - and some will mock his views. But many will see his arguments and rejoice that righteousness is being upheld. If the "wicked" are in positions of power - this man may face problems - even imprisonment - but the blessing from God - and the joy of the people will abound in what he has said. They may not be able to rescue him from imprisonment, but his words will be embraced by those who love what is just and righteous - and that includes Almighty God Himself. Remember if your stand for truth, righteousness, and justice costs you in this life - that you will be richly rewarded in the life to come - in eternity.
We are told at the close of these statements that, "He kisses the lips who gives a right answer." The right answer here is the honest and true answer. It is the person who does not let the world, or any kind of personal favoritism enter into their thinking and judgment. The proper judgment in this matter is God's judgment. And the "kiss" that is spoken of here is the kiss one gives in approval. The idea expressed here may seem strange to us in the United States, even forward and weird. But in the middle east it was common to express approval with a kiss. Thus the idea here is that when we speak what is right - approving the righteous and rebuking the wicked - there will be favor for us. Those who love what is right will hear - and it will be as one receiving loving favor to hear it.
Wise men speak what is right. They do not allow favoritism and partiality to cloud and darken their judgment. They are instructed by the Word of God as to what is proper and true. They open their mouths to speak this truth to others - not just in a denunciation - but with convincing arguments that help to instruct men as to what is good and right. To have such men around you is a blessing that cannot be measured. Such men are rare and hard to find, so if God gives you one - thank Him for the favor He has shown you - and treasure this blessing always.
He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous," Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; Proverbs 24:24
As we face the issue of partiality in judgment, we are shown the danger of it - and the anger that ensues when it happens. We are told of someone who says to the wicked, "You are righteous." It is important to see that this is not a case of religious judgment, but one that is happening in a court system - and also can happen in life as well. The idea is not of religious righteousness on the par of justification. This is simply a wicked man being told that he is in the right - he is without fault in a matter that clearly is the opposite. We see this too often in our society and even in our court systems. Gone are the days when what we truly desire in our courts is justice and righteousness. When a criminal who is clearly guilty of a crime is acquitted because of a minor technicality - we groan and shake our heads in disgust.
We are told that when this happens, peoples will curse this man - and nations will abhor him. Justice is something that goes far outside our homes - and even our cities. When injustice happens, entire people groups will see - and nations will join in the condemnation of partiality and favoritism. Wars have been fought because of errors in judgment - and favoritism toward those who should be convicted of crimes.
I'm going to step into a danger zone here and comment on convoluted foreign policy. I do so realizing that often the choices put before our state department are never between pure right and wrong. They are usually choices between bad and horrible. Regardless of the dilemmas that are faced, we too often support brutal dictators who are guilty of gross injustice toward their people. We wring our hands wondering why in parts of the world people hate our country. One reason is because our power is used to support oppressive, murderous men in positions of power. We may consider them to be the lesser of two evils - and I understand that. But we also need to grasp that when we put someone like that in power and say to the populace of that nation - this wicked man is righteous - at least righteous enough to be your leader, they are going to hate us.
Honestly, I am glad I do not have to make decisions like the ones our state department makes, and I pray for them to have wisdom. They have very difficult decisions to make. But when we do call the wicked righteous - we need to know that the peoples and nations will curse and hate us. It is just a fact of the Bible - and of life on this earth.
Since we are talking about "a little bit of wisdom" in these articles, some may ask, "Then what should we do?" What would the "wise" thing be to do in these situations? That is a difficult thing to answer. But my thoughts are that we should first tend to issues of justice in our own nation. First of all, we are horrific oppressors of the first order in our practices toward the unborn. Our sins and crimes in that area match anything ever seen in the world - and since we export this barbaric practice all over the world for the so-called purpose of population control - we have serious problems of our own. We too often paint ourselves as the great hope - while we are not even living up to the heritage handed to us by our forefathers. My advice would be first to reclaim wise judgment in our own land - before we go off telling others how they should administer justice in theirs. We need to remove the proverbial log from our own eye - before we try to go all over the world removing the speck from the eye of other nations.
"How can we do something so huge!?" would be the next statement made. It actually begins by starting personally - with our own hearts. We repent of the injustices in our own lives - and cry out for God's wisdom in rectifying our own wrongs. Then we fall to our knees and pray for our country. We pray for a revival that will break hearts and turn our churches back to biblical justice and righteousness. Once biblical righteousness has been restored to our lives and the lives of God's church - then we can begin to address our public officials. We can demand something other than base politics govern their thinking - and elect true men of character to our public offices. They can then address the policies that promote ungodliness and gross injustice in our land - by the standard of God's Word. Then and only then can we begin to hope to address the world about matters of justice. We do it now - but only by the use of power and money. May God so work in us, our churches, and our nation that one day we can speak from a vantage of moral clarity - and not just national self-interest.
These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good. Proverbs 24:23
Solomon now gives us the sayings of the wise through the end of this chapter. These are things we should definitely keep in mind as we walk in this life. They are over a number of different topics which will be faced as we walk through our lives. The first of these topics is the problem of partiality in judgment.
The statement, "to show partiality" is literally "to regard the face." This is when someone who is to render judgment sees a face they know - and suddenly their judgment is clouded due to a favorable reaction to this one they see. Once they see their friend or aquaintence, they look upon them no longer with wise judgment, but with an attitude of personal preference. This is one reason why our legal system has within it the practice of recusing ourselves from a case because our relationship with someone might skew our thinking and affect our judgment unfairly. This is the case at the level of the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury. To have justice be fair is of the utmost importance.
I remember the first time I saw the statue that represents justice - and realized that she has a blindfold over her eyes. She stands their blind to who is before her - with a set of scales in her hands. The statue represents how we should enter into judgment with others. We should be blind to who they are - not recognizing or regarding the face of the one before us. Without this kind of blindness to who is before us - we cannot render fair and just decisions. When we start recognizing "faces" that come before us in the justice system, we face the danger of favoritism.
A wise man learns to administer justice blindly, without recognizing a face and without the favoritism that comes with it. He learns to act according to the wisdom of God's Word in rendering judgment and decisions on matters of right and wrong.
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD. Proverbs 17:15
God is a God of justice - and with Him matters of justice take the forefront. That is why God refers to someone who completely skews the matters of justice and righteousness as a person who is an abomination to Him.
Today's proverb tells us that a person who justifies the wicked and condemns the righteous are an abomination to the Lord. This should be something that causes those in the legal industry to fear God and tremble concerning their decisions of right and wrong within the justice system. Which brings me to a few comments about biblical justice.
Several times in the Scriptures the history recorded for us involved the selection of judges. Each time this took place, God made several things very clear. First, He declared that matters of justice always involved His Word, which is the ultimate law-book when it comes to what justice is - and what it is not. This is something we should all heed. Our legal systems are to be nothing more than legal systems which do their best to mete out justice in the sight of God. We are not left to ourselves in determining what is legal and what is not. There is plenty in God's Word to describe any lawless person or delinquent. It is not necessary to consult with the legal opinions of men (even though we may be required to do so by their laws) if God has commented on the issue. He is the ultimate dispenser of justice (and will be at the end of the age). Therefore, if God has commented on the matter - His judgment is supreme.
Second, that decisions of justice are to be free from favoritism. This refers to favoritism on the basis of someone being a family member of friend, but it also refers to more sinister favoritism such as a situation where a bribe has been offered to twist justice. God forbids the acceptance of a bribe to pervert justice - and warns that He will require it of the judge if it is done. This is why our proverb says that justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous are an abomination in His sight.
Third, is a reminder that all human judges are to be those who dispense God's justice, not their own. They are never to be a law unto themselves - or take matters of justice into their own hands. For those who experience perverted justice, God warns not to take vengeance into their own hands. The promise of God is that He will take vengeance on those who disregard His laws and ways. There is a Psalm that should terrify judges as they ascend to the bench. I wish it was written on their desks for them to see daily.
"Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Psalm 2:10-12, NASB) This Psalm reminds every one of us that even the judges and kings of earth are to worship and bow in reverence to God's King, Jesus Christ. All that they do - every judgment that they make - is made in His sight and under His ultimate jurisdiction. Therefore every decision that they make should be made under His lordship - and for His justice to be established on the earth.
The wise man knows that justice has already been decreed - and that all he need do is follow the direction and leadership of the Scriptures on all matters concerning what is just and right. But before we leave this particular Proverb - we should mention one situation in which some consider that God Himself stepped over the line. Some think that God condemned the righteous and justified the wicked when Jesus died on the cross - and when sinful men were granted salvation. But contrary to that thought - God did everything according to His perfect righteousness and justice. Jesus did not die for His own sin - but when He chose to become sin God's justice had to be fulfilled - even on Jesus. When by faith we are credited with Christ's righteousness at salvation, God responds with His perfect justice in welcoming us and granting us His blessing and favor. He is both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus. Rather than being an unjust situation - the cross is actually the ultimate moment of justice in the universe. For when Christ became sin - God had to respond with wrath and punishment upon His only Son - or else He would have been unjust. It is not only wisdom for us to grasp God's perfect justice and righteousness - it is glory itself! Knowing this, though, should make us tremble at His justice and be all the more committed to calling wicked what He calls wicked, and calling righteous what He calls righteous. Any other choice is an abomination to Him.
All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone. Proverbs 19:7
Fair weather friends . . . what are they. The phrase comes from the idea of those who will be with you while the weather is good, meaning that everything is good in your life and you have no problems. But let a storm come into your life - and they abandon you in the midst of it. They are fair weather friends who only want friends who have no problems or needs. That is what our passage in Proverbs addresses today.
The brothers of a poor man hate him. The word poor here means to be a person who has very few resources and no standing or influence in society. When a man is poor - and has nothing of this world's goods or things to offer - he is not embraced by very many. Here we read that even his brothers want nothing to do with him. They don't want a "nobody" as their brother or their friend. Those who think this way miss the reality that the poor are rich in faith - a fact they would not have overlooked if they know the Scriptures.
The poor and those lacking in power and influence have not fared well over the ages. They are overlooked and under appreciated. Not only does the poor man's brothers hate him - but his friends abandon him. These are the fair weather friends mentioned at the opening of this post. Friends are not to be chosen on the basis of how much money and influence they bring to the table. Unfortunately, that is how men think in the world - and honestly - more than occasionally in the church. The mindset of, "What can you do for me," permeates the choice of friends. A lack of value on things like wisdom and godliness - only add to this bad habit.
Though the poor man puruses these fair weather friends with words, they are gone. The idea here is that they just disappear. It is not magic at work - it is just greed and human stupidity. This is truly the saddest when a person plunges into poverty due to problems, sickness, or injury. It is amazing how a series of problems when they come separate your true friends from those who only want something from you. The poor are also abandoned in places of power and influence. This is especially true in the courtroom. Being poor does not exempt you from obeying the laws of our land - but often it means you do not have the kind of representation that money can buy. As a result, the poor often feel jilted by our system of justice because of how the rich can use their money to obtain a better result.
There is one place though where the poor can receive justice - they can receive compassion and mercy. That is at the throne of Almighty God. The Bible instructs us that God is not a respecter of persons. It does not matter what you have or don't have. God's justice is blind to those things - and is focused on the truth. He warned His judges not to take bribes from the rich to pervert justice. He also said that He gives grace to the poor - and that the poor and the rich are alike to Him. When the world turns its back on the poor - the Lord will not abandon him. If ever there were a case where money could buy influence it would have been with the rich man and Lazarus. But the lesson we learn from that story is that God metes out justice and mercy with exacting perfection. The rich man was held accountable for his riches and lack of mercy - while the poor man was shown mercy, having faced great difficulties in life. Both will be held to a judgment based on their sins and whether they have been justified by faith - looking to the Messiah as the One who has paid for their sins and given them a standing of righteousness before God. Though a poor man may not have a friend or a brother who will stand with him in this life, if he knows the Lord Jesus Christ . . . he has a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. Proverbs 18:5
God is very serious about how judges act when they face the administration of justice in a society. Think about this for a moment or two and you will see why this is so vital to a healthy government. If there is partiality in court decisions in a nation - the people will lose faith in their government's ability to be fair and impartial in protecting the property, rights, and justice of that state. When this happens, a cynical attitude toward government is not far behind. As that cynicism grows it will give rise to unrest in the hearts of the people and an basic mistrust of the system. This, in turn, will lead to more and more people taking issues of justice into their own hands - which leads to greater and greater instability in the general populace. As you can see here - having godly judges who are color-blind and well as financial blindness in applying the law are very important.
A respect for the law is what should be first in the mind of a judge. To show partiality to the wicked means that we are not applying the law to restraint wickedness. As usual we wind up with problems in our post-modern world because it wants to view all people, all actions, and all views as equal. But God's Word speaks of actions as being righteous and godly - and He speaks of other actions as ungodly and wicked. The judge needs to know the difference and be willing to enforce and uphold that difference. When he does not he will show a partiality to people who are wicked. Some do this for money - while others reject God's revelation of Himself and what He absolutely calls good and bad. It is not a stretch for me to say here that when we appoint judges who are ungodly - we are doing a great disservice to our country. It used to be that the Bible was widely quoted in case law in our courts. Today, there are those who think this is a violation of the separation of church and state. First of all - there is no separation of church and state in the Constitution - just the prohibition of having a state instituted denomination. Second, such quotation of Scripture in case law has such a strong precedent throughout our history that to ignore it would be tantamount to ignoring the first 150 years of our history and the history of the courts themselves. When you read early court records - it is evident that those who trained to be in the court system and lawyers and judges - also were trained in a basic knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures. In fact, I don't think it is too far of a stretch to say that a lack of a basic knowledge of the Bible would be considered a reason to keep from appointing someone to the bench.
Note the second half of this proverb says that it is also not good to "thrust aisde the righteous in judgment." Here we have another statement that needs to be recaptured in our courts today. There are those who are "righteous" in a decision - which assumes there is a "righteous" way we should walk. A correct way of living is something that is vital to a court system. That "righteous" way of life is presented to us in the Bible. When we ignore it and begin to decide morals based upon the standards of the time - we are going to find ourselves on the shifting sands of public opinion - or at least on the unstable foundation of those who can influence it. This will lead to thrusting aside the righteous in judgment - when we thrust aside the Scriptures as a means of ascertaining what is and is not righteous living.
We've seriously stepped away from the Bible as a document that can bless our society and nation. We did that in a court case without precendent in the 1960's. Judges at the times acted with what is called "judicial fiat" in that case. This term means "judges acting as god." It is a sad reality today that those judges - who chose to act as god - have undermined our legal system to where it is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Now we have a sytem that shows partiality to wickedness and thrusts aside God's righteousness as a way of determining what is right and wrong for our nation. May God have mercy to return to us to good judgment - and good judges. If He does not - we will watch the lawlessness and anarchy continue to rise in our nation. We will watch as many who know right and wrong - come to the place where they know the one place it will not be upheld - is in our court system. God help us that this never becomes the case!
Proverb a Day
Each day, we'll take a look at a verse from the chapter of Proverbs for the day. Our hope is to gain wisdom each day - and from that wisdom - to have understanding to make godly decisions in the throes of everyday life.
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