Given our nation’s current corrupt executive leadership (bank statements don’t lie) what does the Bible say about bribery?
The public uncloaking of such dastardly deeds provides the Bible teacher with pertinent teaching opportunities.
In the brief but mighty book of Proverbs, King Solomon defines righteous leadership, identifying at least five defining characteristics. In summary, the political leader must know that he or she is called to serve, must be discerning, must be just, must have convictions, and must be prayerful. Numerous Proverbs speak to each of these five virtues.
As well, Solomon writes about characteristics of wicked leadership, and in so doing he highlights (among many others) one specific form of what he deems is wicked before the king (Proverbs 25:5): bribery. In Proverbs 29:4 he states:
The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.
More generally, Moses spoke earlier about the corruption of bribery and what it leads to, when he writes to all of Israel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Exodus 23:8,
You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of justice (cf. Deuteronomy 16:19; 27:25).
Bribery can undermine the best of legal and constitutional constructs, and there is virtually no way for a nation to prevent it. The only real solution is pre-emptive character development of the officeholder through discipleship and maturing him or her in their faith in Jesus Christ.
In our world today, the facilitation of bribery is due in large part to the fact that private, wire-transferable, non-investigable bank accounts are available in countries like Switzerland, Belize, and Malta. How easy is it for any elected or appointed political leader to meet with someone at a restaurant, agree to a quid-pro-quo and have money transferred overseas into a personal account? Such actions are virtually impossible to track or uncover! Solomon makes mention of the non-detectable nature of bribery in Proverbs 17:8:
A wicked person accepts bribes from an inside pocket, to pervert the way of justice.
The only way to protect against private corruption is for previous convictions to already be formed in the heart prior to the temptation.
Keep in mind, bribery is not a problem with people who have no power, but it is with those who do.
Prior to Solomon’s instructions here to his son, Rehoboam, who would be the next King of Israel, Samuel’s sons took bribes, which ruined Israel. First Samuel 8:3 states, His sons, however, did not walk in his ways but turned aside after dishonest gain, and they took bribes and perverted justice. Today as well, bribes can ruin the best of republics and democracies—and sometimes that begins with the son or sons of a leader. Samuel did not follow in the ways of his sons, but other present-day fathers do.
Solomon states more about bribery in Ecclesiastes 7:7b: A bribe corrupts the heart, he says. Once a bribe is accepted the recipient starts down a dark path of no-return. Apart from repentance, corruption only worsens, ensuing lying, and cover-up are the inevitable results. Proverbs 15:27 states:
He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.
In contrast to the troubled house of the wicked, the wise, righteous statesman lives! This is the public servant who has been previously discipled by the believer to report incidences of bribery: Because he hates bribes, he lives! His discipler previously informed his conscience, teaching him Numbers 32:23b, which says, and be sure your sin will find you out. If not here, all our sins will be found out at the Bema Seat Judgment (for believers) or the Great White Throne Judgment (for unbelievers) as is recorded in Scripture. Borne through Scripture-based mentoring, a reverential fear of God is a good thing.
Twin to Proverbs 15:27 (quoted above) is Proverbs 16:12 in which Solomon provides further insights to Rehoboam as to what will establish and secure his future reign as a political leader:
It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.
Today, how true and apparent are all these Proverbs as illustrated by the current American presidency!
In contrast to taking bribes, the heart of public servants must hold a personal regard for those whom they serve as being more important than themselves (cf. Philippians 2:3). God requires that leaders whom He appoints to govern a country, His ordained institution of the State (cf. Romans 13:1), be a blessing to the people they serve. Woe to those who warp and pervert public service—as though it were a means of self-service!
Far too often personal righteousness is overlooked as a preeminent ingredient to the dispatch of good civil government—it being the essential foundation of a healthy, prosperous nation! The indispensable ingredient of right-way-ness (the actual meaning of the biblical word righteousness) far exceeds the value of anything else: be it a country’s natural resources, climate, proximity, education, etc.
But how to produce righteous versus wicked individuals to lead in the State is far more difficult than the simple analysis of its need!
The only sure-based means to produce these virtues in leaders is through the evangelism and discipleship efforts of believers in the lives of those public individuals. Capitol Ministries has been working toward that end since 1996 when we were established to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena throughout the world.
As the discipleship priorities, responsibilities, and manifestations of the Church go, so goes the State. The State itself is not in the business of manufacturing righteous leaders—that’s the responsibility of the Church! When leaders who are not tethered to Scripture enter office, one can wager there will be greater wicked behavior, an openness to bribery being one.
This succinct observation explains why so many republics and democracies with few, or no disciple-making churches don’t work. It stands to reason that the heralders of God’s truth are critically important to the success of the public servant and the future of the country. The expositor/instructor of God’s precepts is the seminal incubator of a country’s present and future culture. In Hosea 4:6, God summarily underscores this principle when He said to His Bible teachers of the time:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
This Old Testament passage serves to underscore the if-then results determined by whether Bible teachers are amidst public servants today. Our prayer here at Capitol Ministries is that God will call more and more believers to become Bible teacher/disciplemakers amongst political leaders throughout the world—therein is the only real solution to bribery.
For more on bribery, see Ralph Drollinger’s new book, All in Authority: Reigniting The Bible’s Top-Down Missions Strategy, chapter 15.