One problem with Christianity is the tendency to live in the Old Testament and see what the Bible prohibits and what is allows, instead of trying to understand why some things are prohibited and why some are allowed!! To understand a Christian perspective on the payment of bribes, we need to first understand the concerns of God.
There are two perceptions in the Bible on the Law and this tends to cause confusion. The first is that the Law is good.
Ex 19:4-6 - That we may be a witness to those outside the church • ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Dt 10:13 – It is for our good • to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Dt 4:6 – That we may be a witness and testimony • Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
On the other hand it also seen as a curse or a slavery from which we need deliverance!!
• Gal 3:10 - For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; • Rom 7:10 - And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death
The Law was meant as a guide for life and never as a means of salvation. When seen as a means of salvation it becomes a curse, but when seen as a way of life, it becomes a blessing.
Hence Paul writes
• Rom 7:12 - Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
GOD OF THE WEAK
One truth the Bible emphasizes is that God has a special concern for the weak and powerless.
• Ex 22:22f - You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; • Dt 10:18 - He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing • Ps 10:14 - You (God) are the helper of the fatherless
So to understand God’s perspective on paying bribes, we need to look at the purpose of laws against bribes and the effect on the weak and the poor.
KINDS OF BRIBES
There are three different kinds of bribes and it is good for clarity to distinguish between them.
• Bribes - Payment to someone in authority to do an unrighteous deed
• Extortion - Use of force to extract a payment to do the correct thing or what you are supposed to do or paid to do is extortion
• Influence – Use of my contacts to pervert the system of justice is influence
The Bible says that the taking of bribes perverts justice and harms the honest.
• Ex 23:8 ‘And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous’ • Dt 16:19 ‘You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous’. • Dt 27:25 ‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person’ • 1 Sam 8:3 ‘But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice’.
The taking of bribes distorts the systems in society in favour of the rich and powerful and harms the poor. God, being the protector of the poor, disapproves of bribes and he who pays or receives one is fighting against God. Most Christians would agree that both the payment of bribes and accepting of bribes is wrong and a crime.
This is the most common form of corruption faced in India by honest people. If they need any work to be done they are asked for under the table payments. I have found this not only to be true in governmental offices but also in private companies and multinationals too. People use their position to extort money from you. It is obvious to all, that demanding extortion money is wrong and a crime, but is its payment wrong?
No rules can be made on this and it is going to be situational. Where a kidnapper asks for money to release your child, or a doctor leaves your relative on the operations table and demands money, you are going to pay. However, as a policy we do not pay such extortion demands, and undergo the suffering involved. In most cases it means a loss of time chasing the things we are entitled to and the loss of rights, but we need to make these sacrifices. Why?
The payment of these extortion moneys distorts society in favour of the rich, who can get anything they want by ‘purchasing it’ while the poor lose out. The poor do not get what they are entitled to, and if they pay, the gap between the rich and the poor is widened. In a socialist or welfare state, this is absolutely crucial, since the poor survive on the governmental grants and if large portion of it is siphoned off by extortion, their situation becomes worse.
Hence as a policy I have refused to pay these extortions and have faced the consequences with the help and power of God.
Most people seem to see the use of influence as innocent, as no money is involved, but it is as bad as bribery and more harmful that paying extortion. Essentially the use of influence is to see that the SOP (Standard Operation Procedure) is deviated from for you, so that you can get what you want. This is no different from the payment of bribes, and I have avoided using influence or permitted people to use influence on decisions I take. Why is it wrong?
If we follow the SOP, people will obtain benefits as per the norms laid down by the authorities. When I use my influence, the person without influence is deprived of justice in favour of me. This is unacceptable to God and will be judged.
Let us live simply with whatever God has provided us by righteous means and not run after things not available to the righteous. At one stage in the years past, it was not possible for a Christian to purchase properties because of the black monies involved. Fortunately the situation has improved considerably, so that we can do all our transactions in white, with nothing hidden or underhand. We may not get the best of this world, but we will have God who guarantees our future for us.