He who exacts gifts: Proverbs 29:4



NOTE: Beginning in August 2022, Trinity Reformed Church worked through Proverbs 29 verse by verse for our confession of sin during our liturgy. This post is the fourth in a series of short articles based on those homilies.

Brothers and sisters, good morning! Now, I call you brothers and sisters to remind you that we are a family, and we will have family squabbles, and we will have to deal with them. Today’s passage for our confession of sin is Proverbs 29, verse 4:

By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.

Proverbs 29:4

Of course, none of you is a king. But this proverb applies to us all. We are talking about the sin of partiality. The sin of playing favorites.

What is partiality? Here is a good working definition: The practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.

The word “unfair” is important. You obviously give preferential treatment to your own spouse and children. But what about when we have family squabbles? When some of us are in disagreement, how do we determine who’s right, or who’s wrong? That is the time to set aside preferential treatment and see the evidence with clarity and cool-headedness.

But the proverb also mentions “exacting gifts,” that is, bribery. Where does that come in?

At our level, our most common bribes are our behavior

While working through a dispute, have you ever been tempted to give preferential treatment to someone you love so that person would not be angry at you? Friend, you have accepted a bribe, even if that other person was not aware of it.

Or have you ever been tempted to get what you want with the cold shoulder, with the slamming door, with general brattiness? You’re trying to offer a bribe. As if you are saying, “If you do what I want you to do, I will stop being angry.”

Your Heavenly Father would never pervert justice with preferential treatment. He will judge the world in righteousness.

If you have failed to do justice, repent now, and the Father promises to forget your sin, thanks to the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Photo by Jamison Riley on Unsplash

  • Jon Swerens is a lifelong journalist and has been an elder at Trinity Reformed Church since 2021.