Is it wrong to give a bribe in a country where bribery is prevalent and demanded?

Question:

Please, is paying a bribe to someone who demands it before justice is practiced a sin? The public sector and almost every institution in my country is choked with extortioners and people expecting bribes. Employment in the public sector is found by paying something to politicians and "middle men" before one is given employment. This canker is so serious that sometimes a qualified person is left with no option but to pay before receiving what he is due.

In such circumstances, can I pay if I would not pervert justice in doing so? After all Rahab lied about the spies. Had she told the truth, she would have sacrificed innocent lives, so she lied. She's in the genealogy of Jesus Christ; she is the great, great grandmother of King David; she's in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11 and also in James 2. She did what was right in that instance, even though she lied.


Answer:

Your basic argument is that sin can be justified in some situations, if it accomplishes what is perceived to be a greater good.

Bribes are wrong because they alter justice, as you noted. "You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just" (Exodus 23:8). It is a reason many governments are unstable. "The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it" (Proverbs 29:4). And while you can see the problems bribes cause, you wish to perpetuate it by giving bribes.

So, does Rahab prove that God approves of sin if there is perceived to be a greater good? First, you would need to show that God approved of her lies. An examination of the passages doesn't show that.

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace" (Hebrews 11:31).

"In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?" (James 2:25).

Rahab was praised for:

  • welcoming the spies in peace
  • receiving the messengers and sending them out a different way

She is praised for wanting to be at peace with the spies and, through them, with God's nation. Along with this she did not go and tell the king the spies were there. It is true that the king did come and inquire if she had seen the spies, and that is when she lied, which was wrong. Then she told the spies how to escape without being caught. But her lying is not praised, which I think is purposeful because it was sinful. However, her righteous actions were praised, especially her faith, which is unexpected coming from a Gentile who made her living by prostitution. I often wonder why people don't often claim prostitution is acceptable because of Rahab.

Was every part of Rahab's life perfect? The simple answer is no. And consider that when you came to know God, you didn't lived a perfectly sinless life either. When God accepts you, does that mean God accepts the sin you did?

At this point in Rahab's life, she had a strong faith in God, but she knew nothing of God's laws. The spies were probably the first Israelites she ran into. We should not hold a person, who is just starting to come out of sin, to a high standard and expect her to be a holy saint. What we do know is Rahab did both bad and good things. Like all babes in the faith, she messed up.

Hebrews 11:11-12 talks about Abraham and Sarah's faith that Sarah would conceive a child. Yet, Sarah made a mistake and gave Abraham one of her servants to be his wife. Abraham accepted Hagar as his wife (Genesis 16:2) and conceived a child instead of waiting for God's promised son. When you read about Abraham and Sarah's belief in God, you will notice a few bumps along the way, but they are commended for their overall faith. But that is because when they sinned, they did not stay in their sin.

The same thing could be said about David when he ran from Saul. He had faith in God while he was on the run for many years, but during those many years, he messed up a few times including actions that lead to the death of many priests and a whole town, including women, children, and majority of the animals. He also broke the law and ate the showbread and lied to the High Priest (I Samuel 21:1-10; 22:6-23)! Does that mean he wasn't acting on faith over all? No. It just means he had a few bumps in his faith, but he kept following God, even after he made mistakes. David even admits it was his fault that all those people died (I Samuel 22:20-23). But in the next chapter, even with David's mistakes, God is still with him. He inquires of the Lord if he should war against the Philistines, and God helps him escape from Saul (I Samuel 23). Psalms 18 talks about how God was with David through all his trials, including the time of Saul.

Would it not be better to cite Daniel and the lion's den as an example of choosing God instead of sin? Or how about Daniel's three friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace rather than sin? We could mention Job, who would not curse God so he could die but, instead, stuck to his integrity; or Stephen, who gave up his life to tell about Jesus while being stoned to death. All these men were innocent and in a situation where everyone else was doing evil in which they chose not to participate; yet, they chose to tell the truth and not sin regardless of the circumstances. To fear man instead of God is not becoming of a Christian. A Christian should be willing to give up anything, including his own life, for God (Matthew 10:24-39).

What does God say about doing sin, so good may come of it? "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come"? Their condemnation is just." (Romans 3:8) Those who hold such a view are condemned and lost. Paul reiterates this point, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).

What is the fate of those who think it is OK to tell lies, or sin to save their own skin, instead of following God's commands? They will burn in hell for eternity because, not only are they liars, they are cowards (Revelation 21:8).

"He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; he will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock; his bread will be given him, his water will be sure" (Isaiah 33:15).

By giving a bribe you become a partner in making someone blind to justice, to cause injustice for others, and corrupt the heart of the person receiving it. By participating in this evil deed, you are supporting it. By refusing to accept bribes and not giving them to others, you do not cause trouble for your own house, but God will cause you to live. All work is done above the table, not under it in secret. In doing so, God says He will provide for those who are faithful to Him.

We are told persecution from this world will come, and when it does, we hold fast to our Rock. When a person asks why you don't give a bribe, respond with what the Bible says. That person might be shocked, cause you harm, or even may say "OK, I will grant your request." But whatever the outcome, follow God's commands regardless of the outcome.

Paul never gave a bribe to get out of his "bad" situation with Felix but simply preached on things that were at odds with Felix's lifestyle. Felix's sin gave him opportunity to shine the light of Christ. "But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned" (Acts 24:24-27).

There is no promise it will be easy, but our hope does not rest in the temporary but in the eternal state of our souls. We suffer for little while for the eternal life God has promised us at the end of life. This life will seem like a blink of an eye, compared to eternity. These worries will seem very small compared to what we will receive for our obedience (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

by Alan Feaster and Jeff Hamilton

Hmmm. Thus says the word of God. Who am I to justify something evil? Thank you, sirs.