What does Proverbs 28:21 mean?
ESV: To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
NIV: To show partiality is not good-- yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
NASB: To show partiality is not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
CSB: It is not good to show partiality -- yet even a courageous person may sin for a piece of bread.
NLT: Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread.
KJV: To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.
NKJV: To show partiality is not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.
Verse Commentary:
Right judgment can include distinguishing between persons, but only on a fair and reasoned basis. "Partiality," in this context, is giving unfair preference to one person over another. A common example is giving more respect to a rich man over a poor one (James 2:1–4). It's never moral to act unfairly. The Book of Proverbs refers to something "not good" several times, about half of which explicitly condemn unfairness in judgment (Proverbs 17:26; 18:5; 24:23). Unfortunately, human beings are prone to corruption. This proverb notes that some will act immorally for a trivial reward, represented by a piece of bread.

The Lord God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). He loves the whole world of human beings (John 3:16). John chapter 4 records a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. She was surprised that Jesus, a Jew, would speak to her, because the Jews avoided all contact with Samaritans (John 4:9). After His resurrection, Jesus commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news of salvation to all people in all places (Acts 1:8). The apostle James chides his readers for discriminating between the rich and poor. He writes: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin…" (James 2:8–9).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 28:13–28 features several lessons about generosity and greed. The passage also notes the importance of integrity and honesty. Some proverbs contained here combine these ideas, speaking of work ethic, fairness, care for the poor, and so forth.
Chapter Summary:
This passage features many direct contrasts. The lessons are attributed to Solomon, later compiled into the Book of Proverbs by men under king Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1). Common themes in this chapter are work ethic, generosity, fairness, and reputation. Comments on rulers or leaders make up many of the teachings recorded in this section.
Chapter Context:
This continues a list compiled by Hezekiah's men, recording proverbs associated with Solomon (Proverbs 25:1). The collection continues until the end of chapter 29. The lessons in this passage repeat teachings on generosity and the dangers of greed, as well as the damage done by wicked rulers.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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