Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 28:21
"To show partiality is not good, because for a piece of bread a man will transgress"
This is the Hebrew word paneh, which means face, partiality. The translators have chosen to use the term partialityto convey the idea of taking into account things you know about the people when you make a decision rather than just the facts of the case before you. You may take into account how the people will react or what they have been through or your personal relationship with them or what you hope to get from them in the future. Each of these -- and many other things that you may be aware of -- can cause you to make a different decision than you would have if you had not known them.
Solomon is saying that you need to somehow come to the place where you can set aside all that you know and just make an objective decision. If you get caught up in taking into account all these other possibilities, the decision will become extremely difficult and you will come out with the wrong decision.
Sometimes it is helpful to just say to yourself, "If I did not know this person at all and this situation was brought to me to decide, what would I decide was fair and just?" Then decide wisely with those facts.
In a sense Solomon is saying that it is possible to know too much about a person and to have that knowledge cloud the wise choice. This happens all the time in parenting, in business, in schools, in church, in friendships, etc. You know what the clear right thing to do is, but you don't do it because of how the other person would react or because you want to be liked or because you think they will grant you a favor or because it will be very hard to do it.
Solomon is saying that if you let yourself get all twisted in knots about decisions because of partiality or what you know about them, you are not being wise. And it sets you up for all kinds of temptations and foolish paths.
Sometimes you have to turn off all you know in order to make a good decision.
because for a piece of bread a man will transgress
Solomon is saying that for a very small benefit a person will break God's commandments. He is using the image of a piece of bread -- which is a very small benefit -- to show us how little it will take to tempt a person to lie, cheat, steal, be unfaithful, curse, rebel, etc.
Now what is not clear is whether he is referring this ease of transgression to the person showing partiality or to the person who is under review and wants partiality. It is entirely possible that it is both.
The fact that any two people in a decision process are never far from sin and corruption is the reason that you must learn to make dispassionate decisions.
Ask yourself the question this week: Are you facing some decisions regarding people you know? If you were to take out of the decision how they will react or favors they may give or their background, what decision would you make? This is often the right one even though it is hard.