Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women
Wednesday, December 31, 1997
Dear Colleagues,


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Good Morning!

In many quarters of the world the offering or receiving of bribes is an integral aspect of  business. Because the Scriptures clearly condemn the practice, what is a follower of Jesus Christ to do?

Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.”  (Ex.23:8)  [See also Deut. 16:19; 2Chron.19:7; Psa. 15:5; 26:10; Prov.17:23; Ecc.7:7; Amos 5:12]

According to Webster, a bribe ismoney or favor given or promised to a person in a position of trust to influence his judgment or conduct.”

Extortion, on the other hand is “…the act or crime of getting another’s money or property through force, under color of office, fraud, forgery, intimidation, threat, blackmail, oppression or show of might.”++ (See  Lev.6:4; Psa. 62:10; Eccl.. 7:7; Isa. 33:15; Jer. 22:17; Ezek. 18:18;22:12;22:29; Hab. 2:6)

While the Scriptures clearly condemn the practice of offering or soliciting a bribe, they are silent on the practice of paying money, or its equivalent (goods and services) when it is demanded. Jesus’ instruction may be relevant here

“If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Lk. 6:29b, 30)

Understanding the difference between transactional and variance bribes may prove helpful in working through this difficult issue:

  • A transactional bribe is “a payment routinely rendered and usually impersonally made to a public official to secure or accelerate the performance of his prescribed function.”* The payment is made not to violate a substantive norm but rather to assure the performance (with dispatch) of the official act or service that is available to the public. (Deut. 16:19,20; Amos 5:12, 13)
  • A variance bribe, by contrast, is payment given  where a norm has been varied, “not to facilitate or accelerate an act substantially in conformity with a norm,  but rather to secure the suspension or non-application of a norm.”**  Clearly, this kind of bribe is wrong.

To help you determine the morality of a particular course of action, ask yourself:

(1) Is this action against the law of the land?  (2) How does it fit with Jesus’ pattern of life?  (3) How are  other people affected?  (4) What does my conscience tell me?  (5) Which decision best expresses love? (6) Does this action fit in with God’s larger purposes for me?  (Rom.13:1; IJn.2:6; Rom.14:13; Act. 24:16; ICor. 16:14; 2 Tim.1:9)



 My prayer is that you are having a great week!

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