At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men”Proverbs 18:16
A question that arises from time to time, particularly among Christians who have to travel in dysfunctional countries, or function in corrupt institutions, concerns the question of bribery. What is the Scripture’s teaching on bribery?
The bottom line is that it is wicked and lawless to take a bribe.
“Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deuteronomy 16:18–20).
This is the sin committed by Samuel’s sons, and which helped prepare the way for Israel’s defection (1 Sam. 8:3). So we can see that taking bribes is a great sin.
Reasoning by analogy, if a culture of not taking bribes is in place, it would be really sinful to try to introduce the practice. What you are trying to do is the equivalent of seducing a virgin.
But if the system is already corrupt, and all you are trying to do is get through customs, or otherwise persuade an official to do his job, it is not necessarily sinful to give him what he is angling for. This is radically different than giving a gift to keep someone from doing his job. At the same time, you might want to refrain if you have larger issues in view, but this is a tactical decision. For example, the apostle Paul could have gone free if only he had bribed Felix (Acts 24:26), but Paul wanted his case to be heard by Caesar.
This corruption can occur on a grand scale, or it can be a petty nuisance. For example, when I was in the Navy in the submarine service, and we were due to go to sea, there were various shops on the sub tender that had to service equipment we needed before we could leave. There was this practice called kumshaw, whereby someone would go get a case of steaks from the supply officer in order to expedite the work that was being done on the periscope, for example. As a way to get to the head of the line, it would work, but that didn’t keep it from being disgraceful.