Calling the Wicked Righteous
1. This is yet another of the “wise sayings” in this section of Proverbs.
2. What is said here is a “word to the wise”—and in our present verses, it is a word to the wise who are in positions of authority—such as judges and princes.
3. This proverbial saying consists of three verses. It is a little longer than most in this section.
4. The author speaks about a familiar theme of “showing partiality”—but in a particular kind of partiality.
1. This is the general introduction to the proverbial thought.
a. In the broadest context, it is NOT good to have respect of persons in judgment.
b. Prov. 28:21 – Solomon warns against having respect of persons.
c. The expression translated “respect of persons” in this passage literally reads: “recognizer or examiner of faces.”
2. Lev. 19:15 – Moses warns against judging on the basis of one’s wealth. You should not be able to “buy” justice.
3. Deut. 17:21 – Moses warned against having respect of persons in judgment.
a. Vs.16 – Moses commanded them to judge righteously. (This is exactly what the Lord Jesus said in John 7:24 – “judge righteous judgment.”)
b. Vs. 17 – The small as well as the great were to be heard and judged fairly. (The small farmers and “little people” were to be heard exactly as the judge would hear the great, powerful, wealthy, and important men).
c. They were not to be afraid of the face of man.
• In other words, they were not to show favor to a man because of outward appearance—demonstrated by a person’s face—what he looks like.
» In Solomon’s day it would be easy for a judge to make a decision based on the appearance of the one standing before him.
» Does he look Jewish or does he look Egyptian? Ethiopian? He sounds like an Assyrian, or perhaps a Babylonian!
• This outward appearance is also demonstrated by expensive clothing; what family he was from; whether he was popular—a face everyone recognized; etc.)
• Today, the issue might be skin color; is he a Muslim? Is he a Jew? Is he Mexican?
• Justice was to be blind.
• This is good advice for making judgments today too: justice is to be blind.
• A man is not to be judged according to his standing in society; political power; or the color of his skin; his wealth, or social status.
4. James 2:1 – James warns Christians against having the faith of Christ with respect of persons.
a. The two don’t go together.
b. Vs. 4 – Making judgments on that basis is being a judge of “evil thoughts.”
1. Here the author limits the respect of persons to a particular TYPE of partiality.
2. It is the kind of partiality that perverts justice by calling wicked men righteous.
a. Because he is speaking about “respect of persons” the implication is that the wicked person who is shown preference is shown that preference because of some other status.
b. Obviously, he is not to show preference because he is wicked.
c. Rather, he is shown preference because he is popular, or wealthy, or has political clout, or is from an important family.
d. Perhaps he is a friend or relative who is shown favor.
e. Whatever the particular status he enjoys, the author lays out a scenario in which his wicked behavior is excused, exonerated, or even praised BECAUSE of that status.
3. Most people in the country are convinced that:
a. That when Ted Kennedy drove Mary-Jo Kopechne off the bridge at Chappaquiddick, the only reason he was exonerated was because he was a Kennedy.
b. That OJ Simpson was guilty of murder, but was exonerated because he was a popular football player with lots of money.
c. That the lame excuses of Paris Hilton for her quarterly arrests keep her out of jail only because she is the daughter of an extremely wealthy family.
4. What Solomon warns against was not only applicable in his generation.
a. It has always been a problem and always will be as long as judicial systems are run by sinners.
b. Isa. 11:3-4 – The Millennial Kingdom will change all that. In that day the judicial system will be run by Christ Himself!
c. He will rule with a rod of iron. The wicked will never be called righteous. Nor will the righteous ever be convicted as guilty.
d. Justice will prevail perfectly in that day.
e. Until then, we need to do our best to keep governmental officials honest… keeping in mind that it will never be a perfect system till the Lord comes!
f. Until that day, the warning remains: “It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.”
g. Or as Isaiah put it: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa.5:20)
5. The point of the first part of this proverbial statement is that such partiality or perverted justice is NOT GOOD.
a. It is not good because it is not fair. It is not just. It is not righteous. It is a perversion of justice.
b. Deut. 25:1 – A judge is to be just and fair. He is to uphold justice and therefore he MUST justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.
c. The status of the person involved in the accusation should never even be a consideration.
d. Any kind of partiality is “not good.”
e. Of course, while this was probably directed primarily to judges and princes, there is good application to all of us.
f. Life forces us to make judgments all the time. It is never good to be partial or show respect of persons.
g. Their income, pedigree, power, skin color, social status, or their popularity should have nothing to do with the verdict. Nothing!
1. In this part of the proverbial statement the author speaks of the RESULT of that kind of partiality.
a. Prov. 17:15 – Earlier Solomon stated that this kind of behavior is an abomination to the Lord.
b. Now the author states that this kind of behavior is an abomination to people too!
2. The first result of such partiality in judgment is that the people will curse you and the nations will abhor you.
a. Presumably, people show respect of persons to the wealthy and the powerful in order to remain in good favor with the wealthy and the powerful… or to remain in the good graces of some political, ethnic, or social group.
b. Perhaps it is done expecting a little kickback or to have one’s palm greased a bit.
c. People show respect of persons with self interest in mind. (The thinking is that “if I judge in favor of this wealthy noble man, it will be better for me.”)
d. But this proverb warns that while you may be in the good graces of the person to whom you showed respect, everyone else is going to hate you!
e. When nepotism is displayed, your family loves you, but nobody else does.
f. When you choose on the basis of your ethnic group, you will be popular in that little group… but nowhere else.
g. The regular people will curse you!
h. If you are a king or a prince showing respect of persons, the other nations will abhor you.
3. In general people hate perversion of the judicial system.
a. People realize that if wicked men in powerful positions are getting special deals in court, then the system is rigged and unfair.
b. The average person realizes that if they themselves ever have to stand in that court, that they will not be able to expect justice.
c. If people feel that the judicial system is rigged against them, they will rebel… and perhaps seek to overthrow that system.
d. Even those from other countries will look on from the outside and criticize that system as unjust.
e. Civilized nations criticize other countries (Iran; North Korea; etc.) for their kangaroo courts, and rightly so.
4. The author’s point is that the respect of persons in judging is universally hated.
a. Those who engage in this twisted practice may make one friend, but they also potentially make thousands of enemies.
1. Now the proverb speaks of the person who does NOT show respect of persons in judgment.
2. This person does not call the wicked man righteous.
a. Instead, he rebukes him!
b. He calls his wickedness wicked!
c. He doesn’t back down because of who the wicked man is, what position he holds, what kind of power he wields, how much money he has, or how popular he is.
3. The person (whether judge or prince) who makes righteous judgments shall be the delight the people (beloved; endeared; pleasing) and shall receive a good blessing from the people.
a. The people love this man because of his COURAGE.
b. The people love this man because of his INTEGRITY.
c. The people love this man because JUSTICE was upheld.
d. The people love this man because they feel that they too will be treated fairly in his court.
4. This is true in many other settings as well.
a. If you are a manager at work and have to make judgments that affect the careers of those under you—consider these words.
b. If you are in a position where you have pick and choose among people for various jobs or promotions, etc, you will gain respect in the long run if it is clear that your decisions are just and fair and are not based on a respect of persons.
c. Prejudice can be manifested in our lives no matter what our occupation is—whether you are a cab driver or a president.
d. If you are a leader in the local church and have to make decisions—this principle is vital there too.
e. Parents too would do well to take heed to these words in the way you deal with your kids. Preferential treatment leads to bitterness and rebellion.
f. Nobody wants to support anyone or any institution that doesn’t treat people honestly and fairly.
g. Justice matters.