To show partiality is not good, yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
— Proverbs 28:21
It has been said that the Psalms were given to us so that we could know how to speak to God, and that the Proverbs were given so that we’d know how to speak to each other. Proverbs 28, as well as the chapters around it, reveal how delicate and complex human relationships are.
It’s often a challenge to know what to say to each other, and sometimes we get it really wrong: saying wrong things for the wrong reasons, and even saying right things for the wrong reasons. The proverb in verse 21 points out that it’s not good to play favorites—and it’s also not good to act with false motives. To say what someone else wants to hear just to keep the peace or to gain a reward—even for a basic thing like bread—can be deceitful and corrupt.
This echoes a similar message found in Proverbs 20:17 (NRSV): “Bread gained by deceit is sweet, but afterward the mouth will be full of gravel.” Saying what we think another person will want to hear usually doesn’t bring satisfaction, and it can eventually hurt everyone involved. Jesus teaches that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). If we are satisfied by the bread of life that only Jesus can give, we will speak truth.
Lord, speak to us so that we may speak truth, and help us to resist speaking falsely or doing wrong just to please others. Amen.