Proverbs 29:4

“By justice a king builds up the land,

  but he who exacts gifts tears it down.”

Proverbs 29:4 ESV

This proverb is directed toward leaders, and I think it is very applicable in the modern world. Note first the positive effect of justice. Justice is foundational to a functioning society. People appreciate having a sense of fairness. On the other hand, discontent – even rebellion – grows within the hearts of citizens when they perceive there to be a lack of justice in the land. That injustice may be the result of what appears to be a two-tiered justice system (i.e., “the system is rigged against the little guy”) or what appears to be a too harsh or too lenient justice system.

The second clause is the negative extension of the first. Here the king is under consideration, so modern day politicians would do well to pay attention. It seems to me that there is more at play here than simply receiving a gift. Should the king, for example, simply refuse birthday cards and gifts so as not to tear down his kingdom? It depends on whether those gifts influence the king toward injustice. In modern language we are talking about things like bribes, kickbacks, and payoffs that tilt the king’s favor toward one group, resulting in injustice toward another. This behavior also enriches the king on the backs of others.

Wise leaders demonstrate their wisdom by offering justice.

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