A bribe is money, favor, or other consideration given in exchange for one’s influence against what is true, right, or just. The Bible is clear that giving or receiving a bribe is wrong. After witnessing our news media cover the negotiations of the last several US Governmental bills, the evidence indicates that bribery and vote buying are alive and well in politics today. It is worth our time to review God’s opinion of those tactics and see if we can find clarity. How in the world did we get to where we are today? God’s Law, given to Moses for the people of Israel, had been very specific about taking a bribe.
(Exodus 23:8)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.”
We find this very same command repeated in Deuteronomy 16:19: “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” The negative effects of taking a bribe are clearly outlined in these two passages. First, bribery perverts justice (it is wrong, a sin). It is a slap in the face of wisdom and discernment (we all know that it is wrong and will bring the wrong outcome). It distorts the truth and perverts the words of those who are trying to be righteous in the sight of God (it is destructive to those who work for honest gain). Bribery is a characteristic of a corrupt society.
The Old Testament added an interesting twist to the Law on bribery. The Law went even further in the case of a bribe involving the killing of an innocent person. A judge who took a bribe to condemn to death an innocent person was as guilty as a paid assassin. He was to be “cursed” (Deuteronomy 27:25). When high officials gave and received bribes, it disrupted society. “By justice, a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.” (Proverbs 29:4).
In biblical times, people became quite used to bribery. It became rooted in the fabric of how they even worshipped God. How did the Israelites try to bribe God? The Israelites imagined that by giving thousands of animals and massive quantities of oil to the Temple, they could bribe God into being pleased with them. The reality was that most of the political and religious leaders of Israel were being bribed through offerings (gifts). The Prophet Micah 3:11 records: “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.” Micah 3:11 ends, however, with this: “Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.’” The bribes resulted in the perfect worldly outcomes, giving those who offered the bribes what they wanted!
(Isaiah 1:23) – “Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”
Isaiah prophesied against the evil of Israel when they had turned from the one true God and His laws. Isaiah used a metaphor, calling the city of Jerusalem no different than an unfaithful harlot. Isaiah commented that Jerusalem was once full of justice, but it had become a place of rebellion, murder, and thievery. Her leaders were those who loved bribes and chased after the money bribery brought them (Isaiah 1:2–23). It is no different than what we see today. Can you argue that our nation once was the “Shining City Upon a Hill” as written by John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts in 1630? Its luster has been diminished lately. Rebellion, murder, and theft seem to dim our glorious light. The people of Israel were to emulate God in their dealings with one another: “For the Lord, your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” (Deuteronomy 10:17).
Probably the worst bribe in history was the thirty pieces of silver that Judas received to betray Jesus. The bribe resulted in the arrest and crucifixion of our Lord. Eventually, even Judas realized that his acceptance of a bribe was evil. But when he tried to return the money to the chief priests and elders, they refused it, correctly calling it “blood money” (Matthew 27:3–9). There are a lot more stories of bribery. We could add dozens more. But shouldn’t the point of this lesson be about how we got here and how to change direction?
How then do we change our society and stop bribery? Is that even possible? Humankind is a fallen creature, quick to believe Satan’s lies. There must be a few proven biblical methods that work. God has spent 6,000 years trying to get our attention. Promoting honesty must go beyond mere ethics training. Even small lies or a little bit of cheating are like a leaking dam. It does not take long for the foundation to wash away. Humanity must seek God’s Truth!
(Proverbs 17:23) – “The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.”
History tells us that the purpose of bribery is the perversion of justice. Therefore, demanding justice, measuring leaders for their fairness, lawfulness, and for their mercy will help us stay clear of those who are corrupt.
(Amos 5:12) – “For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. Some oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”
Amos the prophet points out that God knows what is going on in our world. He stresses that the purpose of bribery is to take advantage of the innocent. Notice that the “courts” are used, the legal system is used for nefarious purposes.
(Isaiah 33:15-16) – “Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them.”
Isaiah, whose name means “Yahweh is salvation,” is best known for writing the book that bears his name in the Old Testament. His writings are especially significant for the prophecies he made about the coming Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7, 11:2-4; 53:4-7, 9, 12). Isaiah goes right to the heart of the issue with his people. Isaiah called out those who rule for partnering with untrustworthy people and taking advantage of those who were the weakest. This behavior led Israel’s leaders to believe that their safety rested in their relationships with others. However, it was God who decides the destiny of nations, and security is for God to grant and for humans to deserve. Isaiah held the daring view that the best defense is the reconciling response to moral demands. No one is secure when some are being denied justice and security.
Corruption and other forms of crime are interconnected. To keep corruption in check, a nation needs stability, the rule of law, human rights, and freedom. A moral nation promotes economic growth and levels the playing field for its citizens to succeed. There must be respect for the laws and those laws must be equally applied to all. To curb bribery, either those giving them or receiving them requires serious punishment. A long time ago, King David figured out what it takes for his nation to prosper: “who lends money to the poor without interest, who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:5).
- Do you believe that the people’s representatives sell their vote?
- Ideas to Explore: Is bringing results to one group at the expense of another fair? When a political figure accepts gifts of any kind, such as stock tips, favored loans, trips, or even cash, should this be against the law? (by the way, it is against the law–just no one bothers to hold them accountable)
- What do you think it will take to remove corruption from business and politics?
- Ideas to Explore: Putting God back into our Nation. Harsher penalties. More transparency. More laws?
- God responds negatively to the worldly statement, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Why?
- Ideas to Explore: God considers all with equal justice! God favors the weak.
- Why do people keep supporting businesses and politicians who basically are criminals?
- Ideas to Explore: Is it some kind of master plan of Satan? Are humans inherently broken? Can we save our Nation without Godly leadership?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations