S: Acts 24:24-26 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.
O: Corruption has been with us for a long time. In the Mosaic Law, Exodus 23:8 says “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.” And Deuteronomy 16:19 says “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”
Paul refused to bribe Felix, and suffered the consequence of being left in prison 2 years as a result. However, he also got the opportunity to share the Gospel with Felix, and later with Festus, and eventually with the entire Praetorian Guard.
A: We struggle with the problem of bribery in Malaysia today. I’m glad that as a lecturer, I don’t have to deal with it that much.
But C, a friend of mine who is a civil engineer, has to deal with it daily. He came up with a principle: he will not bribe someone to do something that he is not supposed to do, but he will pay a bribe if it is just to get the civil servant to do what he was supposed to do in the first place. For example, if C knows that his civil engineering plan is sound, but the civil servant would refuse to approve it in spite of that if no bribe is given, C would give the bribe. But C would not give a bribe to make a policeman not write a speeding ticket, for example.
We have been encouraged by the success of pro-democracy and anti-corruption forces in Tunisia and Egypt recently. And they are attempting to do the same in Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and many other Muslim countries As we strive to effect this change in Malaysia as well, we still will probably have to deal with bribery for a while yet here.
I don’t know if C’s solution is a Biblically correct one or not – likely, it might not be a blanket solution, but perhaps the Lord gives him grace given his situation. Paul didn’t give the bribe to Felix even though perhaps under C’s rule of thumb, he could have done so with a clear conscience. But then again, another person could have had a clear conscience not to go to Jerusalem in the first place, especially when the Holy Spirit had already warned that he would be imprisoned if he went.
Ideally, we should have a society like in a lot of western countries and even in neighbouring Singapore where bribery is never necessary for anyone to conduct an honest business. But for many Christians around the world in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, this will probably continue to be an issue to grapple with.
P: Father, help us to put You first when confronted with bribery and not on our own material gain.