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What does the Bible say about bribery / giving or receiving a bribe?


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Bible bribery
Question: "What does the Bible say about bribery / giving or receiving a bribe?"

A bribe is money or a favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a trusted position. The Bible is clear that giving or receiving a bribe is evil.

God’s Law, given to Moses for the people of Israel, forbade the taking of a bribe, “for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8). The same rule is repeated in Deuteronomy 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.” The negative effects of taking a bribe are clearly outlined in these two passages. Bribery is a blinding influence upon wisdom and discernment. It also perverts or twists the words of those who would be righteous in the sight of God.

The Law went even further in the case of a bribe involving the killing of an innocent person. A judge who takes a bribe to condemn to death an innocent person was as guilty as a paid assassin—he was to be “cursed” (Deuteronomy 27:25). There were incidents where this law against bribery was broken, to disastrous effect. Jezebel bribed two worthless men to witness against the righteous Naboth in order to procure his vineyard for her husband, King Ahab. The bribe and the subsequent false testimony resulted in Naboth’s death (1 Kings 21:4–16). When high officials give and receive bribes, it causes evil in a society. “The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it” (Proverbs 29:4). Bribery is one characteristic of a corrupt society.

Isaiah prophesied against the evil of Israel when they had turned from the one true God and His laws. Isaiah likened the city of Jerusalem to an unfaithful harlot; the city 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). The people of Israel were not to follow the ways of evil but 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 nor takes a bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

In the New Testament, the most heinous example of a bribe was that of Judas, who betrayed the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. A direct result of Judas’s treachery was that Jesus was arrested and crucified. 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, calling it what it was—“blood money” (Matthew 27:3-9).

Another New Testament example of bribery is found in Acts 8:20–23. Simon the sorcerer saw the apostles Peter and John lay their hands on some Samaritan believers, and the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. Simon was so desirous of the apostles’ power that he tried to bribe them into giving it to him. “But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.’” Those who would offer or receive bribes are involved in wickedness.

Recommended Resource: Integrity: Examining How I Live, Transforming Life Series by NAV Press

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What does the Bible say about bribery / giving or receiving a bribe?

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