21 ¶ To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.
To have respect of persons is to show partiality to a person because of social position or rank. Sometimes it involves accepting a bribe such as a Congressman voting for a particular appropriations bill that helps out a corporate interest in return for a job offer once he retires from Congress. Or, it could be a local official granting a waiver for some rule to a person of importance in the community.
Deuteronomy 1:17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
God doesn’t show partiality because of your social status that you obtained or were born with on earth.
Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
Gill points out how people will show that partiality, that respect of persons, for the most basic of needs, as he points out the Roman Cato said, “that he might be hired, for a morsel of bread, to speak or hold his peace.”
When you consider the parties involved more than the merit of the case there is injustice. When a parent supports his or her favorite child over another regardless of their rightness or wrong there is injustice. When a Pastor refuses to hear a complaint against an important contributor in the congregation there is injustice. Having respect of persons is not something that God wants from Christians, either.
James 2:1 ¶ My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of* evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
(* of can mean by, with, through, and from depending on context. Here it means “judges with or judges having. Compare “of” and “through” in Romans 3:30 and look at Luke 4:2.)
Judge and discern rightly, not with prejudicial favor toward someone who can do you some small good regardless of the merit of their cause.