Sunday, January 06, 2008

Case Study in Christian Ethics: Bribery

You are in charge of a church's mission efforts in a developing nation. Your church has assembled a large and expensive shipment of medical supplies for a Christian medical clinic in this developing country. But the shipment is stuck on the dock because a government official has insisted on a bribe before releasing the cargo. All attempts to pull strings in order to release the cargo have failed. Do you pay the bribe?


Earl said...

Grit you teeth and pay the bribe. Don't sacrifice people on the altar of your personal principles. If you can't deal with it, resign and let someone else handle the job.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Pay the bribe. Unfortunately that is the way the third world often operates. If possible, maintain records and evidence of what this man has done to you. Be able to testify against him in the future.

DannyG said...

Pay. The greater good requires it.

Keith Taylor said...

...Don't sacrifice people on the altar of your personal principles. If you can't deal with it, resign and let someone else handle the job.

Forget about "my" personal principles.... What about God's personal principles?

I assume you are going to be doing mission business in this country for year going forward. You have now paved the road for paying a bribe each and every time you ship anything into this country.

IMHO, it takes a much bigger man or woman who can handle the job and deal with it and not pay the bribe.

Yes, it may make sense to pay the bribe and get the critical shipment in. I could only come to that conclusion after sincere prayer (starting by prayer for that corrupt official) and consultation from God. We are commanded by God to be just and good stewards of his resources and money. If your quickness to settle and pay the bride costs you and your successors years of bribe payouts going forward, whose efforts are advanced by that? If we pay it, we have not only squandered the Lord's monetary resources, we have also squandered the name and reputation of the Christian mission. We are told to be Christians in the World, but not of the world.

yipeng said...

I believe that God will not require of me to perform an action that is displeasing and offensive to him to accomplish the work of the Church.

You may find this interesting:

Heiz Dilemma

Response to Heiz

Tom Jackson said...

If, as you say, all attempts at pulling strings have failed, then it's probably safe to assume that the local government has no problems with bribery, and even safe to assume that the local government plans to share the take.

Under those circumstances, there doesn't seem to be much point in maintaining records for future prosecution, and the road for bribery has already been paved four lanes wide. I don't see any way to avoid paying the bribe.

Tom Jackson said...


We object to bribery for two reasons; first, it offends our sense of Christian ethics; second, it offends our sense of capitalist fair play and American business practice. (Or the ideals thereof, at least.)

If you're going to argue this as a question of Christian ethics, you'll have to avoid confusing the two. We are on much stronger ground when we try to impose Christian ethics on the world than when we try to impose American law.

Michael said...

It would be easier to pay the bribe with Christ's understanding that the bribe seeker has "received his reward" (Mt 6:5). And like Jeff the Baptist states, it is a certain reality in the third world. It would be easier to swallow if the bribe were looked at as a brokerage fee, a necessary evil to get what is needed. Immoral and unethical at the very least but also no more or less an obstacle than any other. The real problem for me would be in making sure the goods reached the intended destination.

yipeng said...

It is difficult to ascertain which decision will be most beneficial in advancing the Gospel.

Which decision is clearly harmful?

Mark Winter said...

You posited this hypothetical situation by writing, "You are in charge of a church's mission efforts..." It sounds as if I have a board or committee under me. Even though I might "be in charge," I would not make such a momentous decision without counsel. (I would be a bad Methodist if I worked autonomously). If the medical supplies were critical in saving lives, I would personally recommend paying the bribe and then find another worthy mission project elsewhere. (One of the stickier points would be where the bribe money would come from...imagine taking it out of the church budget and assigning it to a line-item!)

JD said...

I am curious to read what Dan thinks. He always has great biblical references for things like this.


John said...

I'd probably pay the bribe. But honestly, I would be less inclined to do mission work in that country in the future.

As Mark jokingly asks, how would this money be budgeted. Sure, put it as a line item in the budget. Even if the port officer isn't honest, let's face up to what we're doing.

Tom Jackson said...

"Expedited shipping charges: $500"