The Church and God’s Law (35)

Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just (Ex.23:7-8).

The command to “keep far from a false charge,” is very similar to Exodus 23:1: “you shall not bear a false report…” (Commentary on Ex.23:1 was made in section 32). This verse goes a step further, pointing out that the consequences of accepting a false charge can be that the innocent or the righteous are killed. For this, God promised that “… I will not acquit the guilty.” Who are the guilty in this context? Those who do bear a false report.

Much of scripture attests to the fact that suppressing the truth in a court of law, and denying subsequent justice is heinous to God: “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them… the perverted mouth I hate” (Prov.8:7-8, 13).

The scripture makes it clear that one of the marks of ungodliness and unrighteousness is the tendency to “…suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Ro.1:18). Thus the godly person must ensure and be absolutely clear about the testimony he brings. If he is in a position to render justice himself, he must also be clear that the evidence he accepts is true.

John’s gospel, along with his epistles, contains a number of important assertions in this regard. John points out that the signs he described “…have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn.20:31). He later points out that “this is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (Jn.21:24).

Why does John bother to use such language? As an apostle and eye-witness of Jesus Christ, he was uniquely placed to bear testimony of the words and activities of the Son of God. John openly acknowledges Who Jesus is, in such a way that would carry the Biblical authority of a true eye-witness.

Like all subjects, the issue if bribes must be considered from a “whole of Bible” perspective.

What the Bible condemns is the taking of bribes, since it is assumed that godly men will enforce God’s laws without payoffs. A bribe may not be accepted for one’s personal profit, either for perverting profit or for administering justly. But the Bible nowhere condemns the giving of bribes in order to impede the progress of apostate governments…. Under the rule of a Hitler or a Stalin, the Christian’s proper response is outward subservience. He should bribe the dictator’s lieutenants, lie if necessary, join a Christian underground, and gain freedom of action through the lies and bribes to continue preaching and publishing.[1]

This is why it is important to understand the context of Jesus’ comments, which He commenced with “…do not resist an evil person…” (Mat.5:39). Israel at this time was under the judgment of God because of its fifteen hundred years of rebellion against God. And this judgment was a fulfilment of God’s promise in Deuteronomy 28 to any nation in rebellion against Him. His judgment was the rigorous occupation of Israel by the Romans. It got much worse in 70 AD, after they had murdered the Son of God.

The Bibles condemns the taking of a bribe, but it nowhere prohibits or condemns the giving of a bribe to further a godly cause, when the law of God is no longer observed in a community. If justice is no longer attainable by normal channels, Christians may need to resort to unorthodox means to further the kingdom of God.

In New Testament times, Jesus could say “whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mat.5:41). The context of this reveals that this is what Roman soldiers could legitimately do to Jewish civilians. “Going an extra mile” was an indirect form of bribery; it won the goodwill of the Romans towards compliant Jews.

As North commented,

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ most comprehensive statement of non-servile subordination.

There is more to be said about the Bible, and bribery. It declares that “a gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath” (Prov.21:14). It also teaches us that “a wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom, to pervert the ways of justice” (Prov.17:23). Thus we should never be part of any plan that would pervert justice, but to gain justice?

That is where a bribe can be legitimate.

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I recently came across a document by Geoffrey Bodkin, written about Britain in 2009. (See www.westernconservatory.com). Pointing to the influence of Charles Darwin on the nation, his conclusions are both insightful and grim. They can be applied to any nation of the West.


[1] Gary North, in Rousas Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” 1973, Appendices, p.842, 845.