Q. I had a minor traffic violation in Panama and the policeman demanded a bribe to waive the ticket. What would you have done?
A. This is fairly common in the mission field, where cultures and customs are very different from that in N. America. Some see bribes as a black and white issue in that they are never justified. However, others see bribes as a grey area in which “gifts” and “tips” are a normal part of life and can avert major problems, and acceptable under certain circumstances. There are faithful missionaries on both sides. Which is correct?
Before I give you my opinion let’s examine what the Bible has to say, starting with God’s character where all ethics originate. Our God is righteous and will never take a bribe:
• Deut 10:17 For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.
• 2 Chron 19:7 Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.
Taking a bribe will compromise His impartiality, so our God never take bribes. We are created in His image and follow His example, so neither should we take bribes.
Second, let’s look at the consequences of taking bribes:
• Ex 23:8 You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.
• Deut 16:19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.
• Deut 27:25 ‘Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’ …
• Prov 17:23 A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.
• Prov 29:4 The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.
• Eccle 7:7 For oppression makes a wise man mad, And a bribe corrupts the heart.
• Isa 1:23 Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them.
• Isa 5:23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!
• Ezk 22:12 In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; …
• Amos 5:12 For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.
The effect on bribe recipients consist of:
• blinding his eyes to distort justice;
• perverting his words;
• being cursed;
• corrupting his heart;
The effect of bribes on those being manipulated include:
• subverting the cause of the just;
• striking down innocent person;
• overthrowing stability;
• ignoring widows and orphans;
• justifying the wicked;
• stripping the righteous of rights;
• shedding innocent blood; distressing the righteous;
• turning aside the poor.
On the contrary, those NOT taking bribes will never be shaken and will live:
• Ps 15:5 He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
• Prov 15:27 He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live.
So taking a bribe is always wrong.
(To be continued)