The Problem of the Bribe

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“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

Growing Dominion, Part 129

“A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath” (Prov. 21:14).

This sounds an awful lot like a bribe, and it does so because it probably is one. One possibility about this verse is that we are being given this information fyi, but that is unlikely. These proverbs are not simply information—they are for us to live by. So, is it always a sin to give a bribe? This is a question that is not irrelevant in the world of business, particularly when that business is international. The answer, based on this text, would have to be “not necessarily.” But some distinctions are in order, and great care is necessary.

It is always a sin to take a bribe. A believer in a position of authority should simply do his duty, unswayed by any external considerations, period. But suppose you are stuck in customs in a Third World airport, and everything you have with you is perfectly legal. Even though everything is fine, the official won’t let you through unless you grease the skids a bit. Here is where the second consideration comes up. This verse appears to say that pacifying someone into the right is okay. It would always be a sin to coax an official into illegal or immoral activity by means of a bribe, obviously. But what if you are coaxing him into doing what is right?

But the third and last consideration is a practical one. I have a friend who grew up in Africa, and who knows how to get around without bribing anyone—although opportunities to “make life easier” are not few. This is important because if you set yourself up to grease the skids this way, you will soon find that you are something of an easy mark. In addition, you will be helping to perpetuate a system that is doing that society no good at all. It should be avoided whenever possible, but it seems that this verse says that it ought not to be considered automatically sinful.

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2 years ago

I do international business in 3rd world countries and appreciate this post. I would love to hear more on this subject. Thank you

Last edited 2 years ago by Glenn
Rick Shaw
Rick Shaw
2 years ago

It’s more of an issue of extortion.

Sometimes it may be wise to pay it, sometimes not.