A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper (Proverbs 17:8 NLT). Whoa, wait a minute. Didn’t we learn from our earliest Sunday School days that bribes are bad? How is it that Solomon, in all his wisdom, declared that bribes are like lucky charms? Not the cereal, although in God’s eyes, a box of Lucky Charms with the cute little leprechaun would be of much greater value than a bribe, for as Exodus 23:8 tells us, you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Furthermore, Proverbs 15:27 says, whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.
So which is it: take bribes, or don’t take bribes? Give them, or not? Why did Solomon make such contradictory statements in his book of wisdom? Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart (Ecclesiastes 7:7). There it is again—another word of caution against bribes. This time it warns of corruption in the heart.
Bribes blind the clear-sighted, so apparently—whether given or taken—they distort our ability to think clearly and sensibly and to have accurate discernment. Bribes also pervert or corrupt the cause of those who are right. In other words, good people with godly, honorable intentions and plans can have their good plans undermined simply by accepting a bribe. The bribe muddies the waters, and good plans weaken and fall through.
Webster’s Dictionary describes a bribe as money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust; something that serves to induce or influence. In other translations of Proverbs 17:8, the word “gift” or “present” is used for the word “bribe”; however, Strong’s Bible Concordance primarily assigns “bribe” to the Hebrew translation of the verse, not gift or present. The meaning behind “bribe” is a redemptive donation, as when one tries to redeem back something lost, through trickery or deception, by offering a “gift” to the one deceived or tricked.
The idea that the giver of a bribe prospers is explained in Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, where the deceptive working of bribery comes to light. Money answers all things; a gift blinds the eyes; it is like a diamond so sparkling and dazzling so charming and attracting, that the person to whomever it is offered cannot resist it; and it draws him to do whatever is desired of him; it carries the cause, it succeeds according to the wish of the giver. Bribes and gifts given with wrong motives serve as tools to manipulate and control the receiver. Deception is woven into every bribe, whether given or received.
Judas accepted a bribe of thirty silver pieces from the chief priests in exchange for leading the Roman authorities to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane so they could arrest and kill him. The chief priests were trying to capture and murder Jesus, who seemed to slip through their hands and evade them because His time to die had not been pronounced by the Father yet. They offered Judas money to “buy” another opportunity to kill the Lord. A bribe tempted Judas to be the catalyst in the murder of our Savior. It seemed like a generous offer, and who could refuse the extra money? He could have refused when offered the coins, but Satan had already entered his heart, and the downward spiral of trickery and deception had begun.
Did the givers of the bribe—the chief priests and Roman authorities--prosper? Did their lucky charm of thirty silver pieces accomplish the devious plot of murder against Jesus? Yes, their diabolical scheme ended in the death of Jesus. The plan, which included the bribe, worked. But, what about the souls of the givers and the receiver of the bribe? Did their souls prosper? There is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death, Proverbs 14:12 says. A money exchange seemed right to Judas, the treasurer of the disciples and a man who loved money. It seemed very right to the chief priests—not a great sacrifice for them! But oh, the tragic consequences that followed…
Upon realizing the impact of accepting the bribe, Judas threw the silver coins back in the temple, then hanged himself. Even secular groups of teachers and authorities point to Judas as the ultimate example of a treacherous person.
What about the chief priests who gave the bribe of money to Judas? Their hatred of Jesus was so intense for many reasons, but primarily they were threatened by His authority and deeds, which they could not imitate. Their superior attitude and pride blinded them to the truth of who Jesus was. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). It is likely their hardened hearts sentenced them to an eternity in hell.
Present-day examples of bribery look like hush money to keep a witness from testifying the truth. Money and favors are offered to attorneys and judges to influence legal decisions. Gifts and special privileges are given to manipulate and control others. Awards and commendations are wrongly bestowed on people to appease or pacify them.
To remain clear-sighted and clear in your spirit, we do well to exercise discernment and neither give nor receive a bribe. When giving a gift, be careful not to give with ulterior motives or a hidden agenda, perhaps wanting to get something back from the recipient or to manipulate him. The Lord looks at the motives of our hearts no matter if we’re giving or receiving. He has incredible ways to prosper us for, the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22).
© 2022, Chris Werre