A Noble Bribe?

“A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; Wherever he turns, he prospers.”

Proverbs 17:8 (NASB)

Before I was a parent I thought to myself, “I would never bribe my own child for good behavior” when I would see other parents pacifying their unruly kids with lollipops and chocolate. Well, it didn’t take me long to jump on board the bribery philosophy when my own daughter was a toddler!

It is a sad statement on humanity that sometimes the only way to get something is to give something. And why is this? Proverbs 17:8 explains that people can be bought by things that appeal to them, whether it’s a “magic stone” or a ” lucky charm” as most translations call it. According to this verse, the giver of the bribe succeeds wherever he goes.

Throughout my  life, I’ve always thought of bribery as a bad thing. After all, the only times we ever hear about bribery in the news always involve a scandal, and jail time for someone. Bribery seems more like trickery than a fair trade. So when I came across Proverbs 17:8 which says bribery brings success, it intrigued me.  Two more verses close to this one express a similar sentiment:

“Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!”

Proverbs 18:6 (NLT)

“A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.”

Proverbs 21:14 (ESV)

Bribes can get you to the right people and they can pacify anger.  Yet, not all bribery is encouraged. The verses below show bribery in a negative light:

“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.” Proverbs 17:23 (NIV)

“Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.” Proverbs 15:27 (ESV)

Bribes can be used to prevent justice from being served, and the person who avoids this type of bribe will live.  A bribe can be any type of gift given in exchange for something. According to all of these verses on bribery, it is important to realize that it is not the bribe itself that matters so much as the purpose for the bribe. If the aim is noble (such as to encourage a child to good behavior), a bribe can bring about a noble result. If the purpose is wicked (to conceal a wrongdoing, for example), death and ruin are sure to follow.

Consider the times in your own life when you have used bribery to get what you want. Were your bribes for noble purposes or not so noble ones? And, do you accept bribes? What do you give in exchange for those bribes? If your answers to any of these questions are anything other than noble (something pleasing to God), take Proverbs 15:27 to heart and embrace life instead of bribes.

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