21 To show partiality is not good—
yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
22 The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor
rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
It is a great relief that justice does not fully rest in human hands. It is folly to have no fear of the Lord, and even more to put ones faith in humanity. We are prone to bend things in our favor, great and small, to satisfy the smallest of cravings and exercise the most trivial of whims. The largest cause of oppression and poverty in this world is not outright meanness, but the subtle corruption of partiality. Under the pretense of helping friends and family, justice is trampled upon, and the common person is indifferently abused. But “the Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed,” in whom else can we hope?
“The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.” To prioritize anything over the Lord is not only a breach of the first commandment, it is counterproductive. The stingy put money in God’s place, and sacrifice relationships for its sake, which guarantees poverty of love if not also of opportunity. The answer to this is not to put relationships in God’s place, and constantly sacrifice on their behalf, as this is the surest way to smother them. Only God can uphold the weight of our deepest desires, under which everything else eventually falls apart.
“Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.” It is also counterproductive to sacrifice the future for the sake of the present, as all temptation urges us to do. Even flattery – the most innocuous form of deception – undermines itself. The flatterer hopes to gain favor, but instead he loses respect. This principle not only applies to the giving of advice but also its reception, as “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”