“To show partiality is not good – yet for a piece of bread a person may do wrong.” Proverbs 28:21 (NRSV)
When you were in school do you remember seeing Teachers’ Pets? They were the ones who tried to get in good with the teacher by bringing them small gifts or by being the “perfect” student. Sometimes Teachers’ Pets were the students teachers favored because of their exceptional personalities or their excellence in academic work.
Proverbs 28:21 is correct when we read “To show partiality is not good—.” You expect the teacher to be fair and impartial in his or her dealings with all students. Students also don’t like it when a student tries to ingratiate herself or himself to the teacher.
Whether the student initiates becoming the Teacher’s Pet or whether the teacher shows partiality to a student or students within the course of the year, the others in the class grow resentful. What happens is that while you are in the restroom, while you are in the cafeteria and while you are on the playground you hear the taunts, “Teacher’s Pet, Teacher’s Pet!” You are scorned by your classmates and because of their jealousy; they want nothing to do with you.
Proverbs 28:21 also acknowledges that we are sinful human beings when we read, “ – yet for a piece of bread a person may do wrong.” The child who seeks to become the Teacher’s Pet by giving a small gift to the teacher is just as guilty as the teacher who favors the student who lavishes attention on him or her. In truth, the gift does not have to be grand … for the gift mentioned in the scripture is “a piece of bread.” The gift may be quite small and common, but it is the special attention that is given to the teacher or the student that really makes the difference.
O Lord, we know that there are venues other than in the classroom for showing partiality. We acknowledge how easy it is to lose our perspective. We confess our weakness in trying to garner favor by giving gifts to those in authority. We also confess to having fallen victim to the special attention and deference others have shown us. Forgive us of our sin and help us always to be fair and impartial in our dealings. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.