The piece below is by Rikki Decker of the Greystone Park Christian Fellowship, Harare. The subject is Bribery, the cousin of Corruption, and as he puts it; “It is an in house document and not polished. Also it is designed to provoke discussion so there is no claim of infallibility.”
by Rikki Decker
I am aware that what I write below could be contentious. When the economic crisis hit, the Zimbabwe business seemed to be based on bribery. I did a Bible study to see what it actually said about this. (A number of the folk in the church asked me as their pastor for advice – perhaps to find a way out of the mess and yet still be Godly in their actions. I salute such people).
I would be interested in debating this with others so that we can find the truth as revealed in the scriptures. This document is to be read as one person’s opinion and is not a definitive statement of truth. If there is error in it I would like to know.
If you wish to debate please respond to me directly and not to the whole BOAZ network. Thanks.
Regardless of what you read below, if you are not at peace paying a solicited bribe under any circumstances then, regardless of what the Bible appears to teach, it is wrong for you to violate your conscience.
money or other valuable consideration given or promised with a view to corrupting the behaviour of a person, as a public official.
to give or promise a bribe to.
to influence or corrupt by a bribe.
to give a bribe; practice bribery.
Where does it come from?
Late 14c., “thing stolen,” from O.Fr. bribe “bit, piece, hunk; morsel of bread given to beggars” (14c.), from briber, brimber “to beg,” a general Romanic word (Gamillscheg marks it as Rotwelsch, i.e. “thieves’ jargon”), of uncertain origin. Shift of meaning to “gift given to influence corruptly” is first attested 1530s.
The heart and motive behind bribery is corruption.
I see three clear categories associated with bribery:
1. Those that demand a bribe before they will provide a service.
2. Those who specifically offer a bribe to get something done that would not be normally done. (If you tidy your room, you can go out tonight with your friends). In the Bible this is usually related to getting judges to act in an unrighteous manner, i.e. to pervert justice.
3. The person that is being deprived of a service, rightfully theirs, unless they pay a bribe. In other words the victims of (1) above. In this case the person is being solicited for a bribe.
What does the Bible say about these 3 categories?
1. The person that demands a bribe.
The Bible is very clear that such people incur the wrath of God. The Bible calls such people ‘evil’.
And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Exodus 23:8
Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live. Proverbs 15:27
In whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. Psalm 26:10
For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Amos 5:12
The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice. Proverbs 17:23.
There are many more in this vein. But simply a man that fills his hands with bribes is classed as an evil man, brings trouble on his household and a curse upon himself.
2. The person that offers a bribe.
There are not too many scriptures in this category of people but they are condemned by association. The same condemnation rests on those that offer bribes to pervert justice; to get their own way; etc.
3. The person from whom a bribe is demanded.
There are two scenarios here that I can see:
a. The bribe is demanded to perform an unrighteous/illegal act – “I will get it out of customs for you without …”. Clearly this is wrong and a Christian would, hopefully, not consider it.
b. The bribe is demanded before a righteous deed is done. Example: “I will give you your licence now if you pay me ….. Otherwise it will be delayed!” In such instances there is absolutely no direct scripture that condemns the paying of this sort of a bribe.
Indirectly it could be argued that by paying this requested bribe we are:
i. Encouraging corruption
ii. Bringing calamity upon a person and his household.
If the service/thing required is important and there is absolutely no desire to corrupt the person soliciting the bribe then I believe that we can tell that person that you are a Christian and explain that the Bible tells us that a man who gains riches through bribery is classed as a wicked/evil man and that his household will be ‘troubled’. In so doing we put the responsibility fairly and squarely on that person to choose to act righteously. If he still demands the bribe then we are free to give it to him without any condemnation from the Word that I can see.
There seems to me to be a real similarity between ‘extortion’ and ‘soliciting a bribe’ when the item/service concerned is very important. Perhaps we need to discern between the two. There are legal debates about this but in principle extortion generally involves threat or misuse of a person’s office to get goods from you. Would a statement like “If I don’t get my child’s school fees paid this application to licence your company will be lost for ever!” be classed as bribery or extortion? Perhaps the legal folk can help us there?
I have appended some scriptures in the Bible on bribery for your interest. There are many more as you will find if you do a digital search through your computerised Bible. (E-Sword is great and it is free).
• The motive behind bribery is corruption.
• Asking for and accepting bribes marks you as a wicked and evil person and you can expect God’s judgement not only on yourself but on your household.
• Using a bribe to gain favours by inducing someone to do wrong puts you in the same category as one who accepts bribes.
• There does not seem to be any Biblical prohibition to the paying of a solicited bribe. In some cases the solicitation could be classed as extortion.
• We can explain to the person demanding the bribe the consequences, under God, of him taking the solicited bribe. This may not be welcomed but at least they will never be able to say they hadn’t heard. Who knows? It may open the door to share Christ with them!
Exodus 23:8: And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
Deuteronomy 27:25:”Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person.”
Proverbs 15:27: Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.
Psalm 26:10: In whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
Amos 5:12 : For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Proverbs 17:23 : The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.
Proverbs 17:8 : A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.
Job 15:34 : For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of bribery.
1 Timothy 6:10 : For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Isaiah 5:23 : Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
Proverbs 21:14 : A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
Matthew 28:12-15 : And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Isaiah 1:23 : Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
Ecclesiastes 7:7 : Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Proverbs 29:4 : By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.
Proverbs 11:1 : A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.
Proverbs 10:2 : Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
Judges 16:5 : And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”
Acts 24:26 : At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.
Matthew 26:15 : And said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
Proverbs 28:21 : To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
Matthew 27:3-9 : Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. …
Micah 7:3 : Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.
Amos 2:6 : Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals—
Ezekiel 22:13 : “Behold, I strike my hand at the dishonest gain that you have made, and at the blood that has been in your midst.
Ezekiel 22:12 : In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take interest and profit and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; but me you have forgotten, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 13:19 : You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.
Isaiah 33:15 : He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, :
Esther 3:9 : If it pleases the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.”
1 Kings 15:19 : “Let there be a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold. Go; break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.”
1 Samuel 8:3 : Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
Luke 22:5 : And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.
Luke 16:1-31 : He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ …
Mark 14:11 : And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Proverbs 18:16 : A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
Proverbs 17:1-28 : Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers. The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue. Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. …
Proverbs 1:10-19 : My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”— …
Psalm 82:1-8 : A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. …
Nehemiah 6:10-13 : Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me.