22 February 2006

proverbs 15:27

proverbs 15:27

Our executive pastor, D. Marion Clark, maintains his "A Proverb a Day" blog in addition to his church news blog and sermons blog. Sometimes when he's been away Marion's had various other folks at the church fill in for him, posting some thoughts on the day's proverb.

Today and tomorrow, I'm filling in. Since I'm not blogging much else, I thought I'd post my thoughts on the day's proverb here as well.

For Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Proverbs 15:27

Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.

Even in the modern world with its procedural justice, those with wealth can influence the machinery in their favor. How much more was this the case in Israel with its networks of personal contact, loyalty, and respect. Thus, we find in Scripture, a number of strong statements about the danger and wickedness of bribery.

And we still see the possibility of secret (or not so secret) gain influencing the treatment of those who are too impoverished or too poorly positioned to make such offers: the executive who accepts personal gifts in exchange for offering a contract to a second-rate but wealthy company, the pastor who cancels counseling for an unwed mother in order to be treated to lunch by a generous donor, the researcher who selects his data with an eye to the enhanced reputation the funding corporation promises him even if his results might endanger those at the margins of society.

This, however, is not God's way. In Deuteronomy 10:17, Moses tells Israel, "Yahweh your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe." The God of Israel was no local deity to be manipulated and bribed for his favor, but rather the God of all creation who stands in need of nothing from his creatures. Indeed, this great Judge of all the earth is same God who, in the person of Jesus Christ, made himself poor for our sakes, in order that he might find us in the right before his court, having restored himself what was lost due to our sin.

As today's proverb tells us, those who are greedy for bribes and unjust gain adopt habits that not only destroy themselves, but bring ruin upon their entire household. The patterns of human relation implicated in bribe-taking cannot sustain themselves over time. We who are Christ's church, however, must live as those who know we are recipients of God's unmerited favor, a God who judges the poverty of sin mercifully and at great cost to himself. When we trust this God revealed in Christ, we will hate bribes and live.