16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:16–17, NKJV)
We are reminded of the importance of impartial, unbiased judges as we watch this week’s confirmation hearing of the most recent judge nominated to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court. Judges who bring an agenda to interpreting and applying the law to cases are biased, unjust, and undermine the rule of law. “Equal justice under law” (engraved above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court) is a principle we strive for as a nation, but it is not a new concept. Moses commanded it of Israel under the governance of the Sinaitic Law. Gospel salvation under the new covenant of Christ is equally available to all “without respect of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God is impartial, applying His word of truth without bias to rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:1-11). God commands all of us to repent because He has appointed a righteous, impartial Judge before whom we will stand and be judged (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10). Let us discard our agendas for the only one that matters; the word of Christ. He saves and He judges without prejudice and partiality (Jno. 12:48-50).
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
Christians sing the old spiritual song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…,” reminding us our stay on earth is transitory. Life is temporary, and when we live as if it is permanent we forget key components of a life well-lived in preparation for eternity. First, we forget we are immortal beings. Created in the image of God, we are not defined by the physical realm, but by the spirit, the inner spiritual person. We call on our Father in heaven, not on lifeless gods craved by the art and design of men. We live before God, and therefore we must live with an immortal perspective. Second, we forget what we do on earth will be judged by God, fairly and impartially. God sees and knows everything about us. We will each give account of ourselves to God. That should persuade us to live in His favor right now (Rom. 14:11-12). It should cause us to dread sinning against Him. God’s judgment of our lives will be personal, fair, and impartial (2 Cor. 5:10). We are convinced by God’s goodness and severity to do His will faithfully each day (Rom. 11:22). We are choosing what our judgment will be by the way we live. Remember, this world is not our home. So, live for heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17–18, NKJV)
Just as the wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, and demonic” has identifiable traits (bitter envy, self-seeking, pride, lies, and confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), so does the wisdom from above. God-approved wisdom is marked by dignified purity, and so is “consecrated to the service and glory of God” (Lange). With God as its object, wisdom from above has a social character that reflects innocence toward men and women. This wisdom is peaceable (not warring, Jas. 4:1). It is gentle – mild, moderate, fair, and just in its judgments and treatment of others. Approved wisdom is “willing to yield,” it is easily entreated, “open to reason” (ESV). Wisdom hears all the evidence instead of entrenching itself without reason against it. It is full of mercy and it bears the impartial, genuine fruit of compassion. Because of its nature, heavenly wisdom plants the seeds of peace (not hostile confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), and so produces peace (Matt. 5:9). Let us pursue the wisdom that is from above and bear the fruit of righteousness.
22 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; 23 For the Lord will plead their cause, and plunder the soul of those who plunder them. (Proverbs 22:22–23, NKJV)
Perverting justice is a form of robbery. The upright of heart will not steal from anyone at any time (Ephesian 4:28). Yet, some take advantage of the poor because their hearts are given to wicked selfishness and the arrogance of power. “Might makes right” to far too many, and as a result, the poor and disadvantaged suffer at the hands of oppressors. Justice is blind – a truth God spoke long before the blindfolded Lady Justice was ever sculpted. Moses told Israel, “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:17). God’s law to Israel warned against perverting the just of the poor: “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute” (Exodus 23:6). It also warned against showing partiality to the poor: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Poverty is not the rich man’s reason to plunder, nor is poverty a just reason to pervert justice. Divine justice is impartial, and ours must be, too. God will punish injustice and oppression.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” (James 2:1, NKJV)
Impartiality is a trait of God Himself; “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We must resist and reject the temptation to show favoritism in our judgments and our treatment of others. We cannot hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and do otherwise. Partiality is motivated by appearance, which exposes its unjust nature (John 7:23-24). Partiality grants an undue advantage to one, while unjustly withholding that same advantage from another (see James 2:2-4). Impartiality is a mark of justice, while partiality is unjust. God was quite clear in His law to Israel to be impartial in their treatment of others: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Did you catch that? Neither poverty, riches, power or nobility were to inform and influence their judgments. Righteousness was to direct their judgments and their treatment of others. Judges were charged not to show partiality in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:17). Showing favoritism and bestowing benefits based on appearance rather than truth is not love for one’s neighbor. When we show partiality in judgment we “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). Let us be just in all our dealings, without partiality.
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18–20)
Our elected representatives are presently considering a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A righteous nation seeks to appoint judges who will judge among the people with “just judgment” (v. 18). Such justice requires impartiality – a judge who will not be bribed or swayed by the outward circumstances of either the plaintiff (seeking judicial relief) or the defendant. Poverty and wealth hold no preferential sway over the righteous judge. If it does, then injustice will prevail. Israel was told, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Impartiality is required if justice under the law is to prevail. The judgments of God’s law are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, let us use them to “judge with righteous judgment,” without the bias of circumstance or the prejudice by emotion (Jno. 7:24).
“For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11, NKJV)
Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome personified justice with the images of their goddesses holding a set of scales. During more recent centuries, Lady Justice is often sculpted wearing a blindfold, denoting objectivity. Her statue stands at numerous courthouses around the world. You see, everyone wants a fair and impartial judge and jury to sit in judgment of their case. The true and living God is the archetype of impartial judgment. With “righteous judgment” He will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:5-6). He is totally impartial. This certainly renders futile and false the doctrine that God, before times eternal, unconditionally elected some souls for eternal life and others for eternal damnation. This evil doctrine forfeits human freewill, relegates the sovereignty of God to capricious conduct, and assigned partiality in judgment to the Almighty. Rest assured, He will impartially judge us all. Are you ready for the judgment day?
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:34-35)
Unlike humans, God does not form judgments based on outward appearances. Things like race, ethnicity, gender, social status, accent or physical features do not form God’s impression of us – or anyone else. His impartiality implies His just treatment of each person. With impartiality God places the same conditions on all who seek His acceptance. Peter clearly announced whom God accepts: “whoever fears Him and works righteousness”. Reverent, obedient faith is essential to please to God. These in no way earn His approval, but they do demonstrate your faithful trust that God will indeed accept you when you fear Him and do His will. Fear God and work the righteousness He commands you in His word, and with impartiality and justice He will receive you.