Text: Proverbs 24:23-26

Our living and true God is perfectly righteous and just. He is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11) and judges according to truth (Romans 2:2). All are accounted sinners in the sight of the Lord, and there is no one who can escape the eternal judgement of the lake of fire unless he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Similarly, a Christian ought to be true in his judgement. The passage for consideration lies in a section of sayings that belong to the wise that runs all the way from verse 23 to 34. The first group of sayings exhort Christians not to be partial in judgement, but to judge righteously and truly.

To have respect of persons does not mean that Christians are to be rude to others. Neither does it mean a disrespect of authorities. “To have respect of persons” is literally “to regard faces”. The idea is one who bases his judgement upon his relationship with the parties involved. He is also one who is always on the side of the party who is most powerful and influential. He shifts like the wind! However, the Christian is to judge according to truth and the Word of God. He is to be impartial in his judgement. To do otherwise is foolishness, and unbecoming of one who is supposed to be endowed with heavenly wisdom.

Verses 24 and 25 are in antithetical parallelism, contrasting the consequences of one who is partial in judgement with one who is not. One who is partial in judgement is liken to a man who supports evil, and justifies it as good. This is an inversion of justice and goes against the very character of God. The consequence of such a man is that he will be hated by every-one, having suffered under such gross injustice. This man is nothing but a promoter of perverseness and iniquity. The conduct of this man is aptly described in Proverbs 28:21 – “To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece (or morsel) of bread that man will transgress.”

On the other hand, the Bible proclaims that “to them that rebuke him shall be delight”. This does not mean that the impartial man will gloat over the demise of the wicked. Proverbs 24:17 teaches, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.” Rather, his delight lies in the upholding of justice which is pleasing unto the LORD. The Bible promises the impartial ones that a good blessing shall come upon them. This good blessing is none other than the favour of God, who strengthen the spiritual maturity of the upright. The spiritual experience of contending for justice and truth is something which money cannot buy.

Verse 26 continues this theme – “Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.” The adjective “right” refers to that which is straight as opposed to that which is crooked. It points to a person which gives an answer which is honest, right and true without the fear of men. Such a man will experience the kissing of lips, not the sensual and lustful kiss, but an expression of intimate affection, friendship and loyalty. When a man is impartial and honest with his words, people will see him as a man of integrity. This was the case of young David before he became king. He was afforded the love of his people because they saw that he was blameless and impartial in his dealings. This was despite the constant unjustified at-tacks of king Saul on his life. He won the respect of the people, including the tribe of Benjamin, which was the tribe of Saul. A man of integrity will be one who is loved and valued by others.

As Christians, we must ensure that we must have no partiality in judgement. Appointments to areas of responsibility and service must not be based on relationship, but upon spiritual qualifications and the confirmation of the Lord. Neither should appointments be made because of gifts received or potential gain. Woe be to the congregation which elects leaders of their own choosing simply because they are their friends or family! Cronyism and favouritism are frowned upon in the world. Why then should it be found in the church? That is a great abomination and affront to our most just God!

The issue of respect of persons is not new in the New Testament Church. James had to rebuke the Jewish Christians for favouring the rich and powerful, and neglecting the poor. “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and here come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my foot-stool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

For the Gentile Christians, we have the testimony of Diotrephes in 3 John, who showed partiality in judgement and ended up rejecting the righteous, simply because he loved to promote self.

“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3 John 9-10)

Partiality of judgement can also occur when exercising church discipline. Even when a leader or session member has committed a public sin, the Discipline Committee must never shrink from dealing with the issue for fear of repercussions. To allow sin to fester is to destroy the congregation. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6).

Dearly beloved, our God is no respecter of persons. Neither should we be partial in our judgement. Let the church of God be a place where justice and truth prevail.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew