Freedom from bias or favoritism; fairness. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for “partial” or “partiality” have the sense of viewing and judging from the outward appearance; respect of persons. Impartiality, therefore, is a matter of not letting the person or that which appears materially, such as his position, wealth, power or other influence, or a bribe (or, on the other hand, sentimentality for a poor person) sway one’s judgment or actions in favor of the individual. Impartiality sees that all are treated in harmony with what is fair and just, according to what each deserves and needs.—Prov. 3:27.
Jehovah says that he “treats none with partiality nor accepts a bribe.” (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7) The apostle Peter said, when God sent him to declare the good news to the uncircumcised Gentile Cornelius: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 2:10, 11.
Jehovah, the Creator and Supreme One, cannot be challenged on his decisions and actions. He can do as he pleases with what he has created, and does not owe anyone anything. (Rom. 9:20-24; 11:33-36; Job 40:2) He deals with individuals or groups, even nations, according to his purpose and his own appointed time. (Acts 17:26, 31) Nevertheless, God is impartial. He rewards each one, not according to his outward appearance or possessions, but according to what he is and what he does. (1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12) His Son Jesus Christ follows the same impartial course.—Matt. 16:27.
Not partial toward Israel
Some persons have held that Jehovah dealt partially by using and favoring Israel as his people of ancient times. However, an honest examination of his dealings with Israel will reveal that such charge is erroneous. Jehovah chose and dealt with Israel, not because of their greatness and numbers, but because of his love and appreciation for the faith and loyalty of his friend Abraham, their forefather. (Jas. 2:23) Also, he was long-suffering toward them because he had placed his name upon them. (Deut. 7:7-11; Ezek. 36:22; Deut. 29:13; Ps. 105:8-10) While obedient, Israel was blessed above the nations not having the Law. When Israel was disobedient, God was patient and merciful, punishing them, nevertheless. And though their position was a favored one, they were under weightier responsibility before God because of bearing God’s name and because they were under the Law. For the Law carried curses against the one breaking it. It is written: “Cursed is the one who will not put the words of this law in force by doing them.” (Deut. 27:26) The Jews, by violating the Law, came under this curse, which was in addition to their condemnation as offspring of sinful Adam. (Rom. 5:12) Therefore, to redeem the Jews from this special disability, Christ had, not only to die, but to die on a torture stake, as the apostle Paul argues at Galatians 3:10-13.
Thus, God exercised no partiality toward Israel. God was using Israel with the blessing of all nations in view. (Gal. 3:14) By this means God was actually working toward the benefit of people of all nations in his due time. In harmony with this, the apostle remarks: “Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of people of the nations? Yes, of people of the nations also, if truly God is one, who will declare circumcised people righteous as a result of faith and uncircumcised people righteous by means of their faith.” (Rom. 3:29, 30) Furthermore, in the ancient Jewish commonwealth, men from other nations could come under God’s favor and blessing by worshiping Jehovah the God of Israel and keeping his law, as did the Gibeonites, the Nethinim (“given ones”) and many alien residents.—Josh. 9:3, 27; 1 Ki. 8:41-43; Ezra 8:20; Num. 9:14.
Although patient and merciful, receiving Israel back when they repented, Jehovah finally cast them off as his name people. (Luke 13:35; Rom. 11:20-22) The apostle’s statement applies here: “He will render to each one according to his works: . . . wrath and anger, tribulation and distress, upon the soul of every man who works what is injurious, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”—Rom. 2:6-11.
So, while a superficial, short-range view of God’s dealings might appear to reveal partiality, the deeper, long-range view brings to light marvelous impartiality and justice beyond anything man could have conceived. How finely he worked out matters so that all mankind would have opportunity to receive his favor and life!—Isa. 55:8-11; Rom. 11:33.
Not partial toward David
As Jehovah told Moses, he is a God who will by no means give exemption from punishment for wrongdoing. (Ex. 34:6, 7; Col. 3:25) Even in the case of his beloved servant David, with whom Jehovah had made a covenant for the kingdom, God made no exception. He punished David severely for his sins. After David’s sin against God in the affair of Bathsheba and her husband Uriah, Jehovah told him: “Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house; and I will take your wives under your own eyes and give them to your fellow man, and he will certainly lie down with your wives under the eyes of this sun. Whereas you yourself acted in secret, I, for my part, shall do this thing in front of all Israel and in front of the sun.”—2 Sam. 12:11, 12.
The Bible account reveals that David indeed suffered much trouble from his own family. (2 Sam. chaps. 13-18; 1 Ki. chap. 1) While God did not put him to death, because of the kingdom covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:11-16), David suffered even greater sorrows. As an earlier servant of God, Elihu, had said: “There is One who has not shown partiality to princes.” (Job 34:19) However, based on the coming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God could forgive the repentant David and yet maintain his own justice and righteousness. (Rom. 3:25, 26) Through the sacrifice of his Son, God has a just and impartial basis on which to undo the death of Uriah and others, so that, ultimately, none suffer unjustly.—Acts 17:31.
COUNSEL TO JUDGES
Jehovah gave strong counsel to the judges in Israel as to impartiality. Judges were under the strict command: “You must not be partial in judgment.” (Deut. 1:17; 16:19; Prov. 18:5; 24:23) They were not to show partiality to a poor man merely because of his poorness, through sentimentality, or from prejudice against the wealthy. Neither were they to favor a rich man because of his wealth, perhaps catering to him for favor, a bribe, or through fear of his power or influence. (Lev. 19:15) God eventually condemned the unfaithful Levitical priesthood in Israel for violation of his law and, as he particularly pointed out, for showing partiality, since they acted as judges in the land.—Mal. 2:8, 9.
IN THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION
In the Christian congregation impartiality is a law. Showing of favoritism is a sin. (Jas. 2:9) Those guilty of acts of favoritism become “judges rendering wicked decisions.” (Jas. 2:1-4) Such persons do not have the wisdom from above, which is free from partial distinctions. (Jas. 3:17) Those in responsible positions in the congregation are under the serious obligation the apostle Paul placed on Timothy, an overseer: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the chosen angels to keep these things without prejudgment, doing nothing according to a biased leaning.” This would apply especially when judicial hearings are being conducted in the congregation.—1 Tim. 5:19-21.
Those ‘admiring personalities for benefit’ condemned
Violation of the principle of impartiality can result in the severest condemnation. Jesus’ half-brother Jude describes some who Infiltrate the congregation with gross immorality, and says: “These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, proceeding according to their own desires, and their mouths speak swelling things, while they are admiring personalities for the sake of their own benefit.” (Jude 16) These men are called “the ones that make separations, animalistic men, not having spirituality.” (Jude 19) Such ones may sway others by their swelling words and their admiration or acceptance of personalities, like the ones Paul describes who “slyly work their way into households and lead as their captives weak women loaded down with sins, led by various desires.” (2 Tim. 3:6) Destruction awaits them.—Jude 12, 13.
“Worthy of double honor”—How?
In view of these things, how can those in the Christian congregation reckon the older men who preside in a fine way “worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching”? (1 Tim. 5:17) This is not because of the personalities of these men or their ability, but because of their diligence and hard work at the extra responsibilities placed upon them. God’s arrangements and appointments are to be respected. Such men should receive special cooperation and support in getting the work of God’s congregation accomplished. (Heb. 13:7, 17) James the half brother of Jesus points out that teachers in the congregation are under weighty responsibility to God, receiving heavier judgment. (Jas. 3:1) Therefore they deserve to be heard, obeyed and given honor. For a similar reason the wife should honor and respect her husband, who is charged by God with responsibility for the household and is judged by Him accordingly. (Eph. 5:21-24, 33) Such respect of men placed in responsible positions by God’s arrangement is not partiality.
Respect for rulers
Christians are also told to respect rulers of human governments, not because of the persons of these men, some of whom may be personally corrupt. Neither is it because special favors might come from them due to their power, as is often the motive of those who do favors for rulers. Christians respect rulers because God commands it; also because of the high position of responsibility the office stands for. The apostle says: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God.” (Rom. 13:1, 2) These men, if they misuse their authority, are answerable to God. The honor or respect due the office is rendered to the one filling that office by the Christian according to the rule: “Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to him who calls for fear, such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.” (Rom. 13:7) The honor rendered in this particular respect by the Christian above that accorded to ordinary citizens is not ‘accepting the person’ of individuals or showing partiality.