Bribe-Taking in the Church
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Deuteronomy 10:17-18 For the LORD 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. (18) He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
Romans 2:11 For God shows no partiality.
Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
1 Timothy 5:21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.
True justice is much rarer in this world than we might believe. Human beings, including judges, are not completely impartial. Justice (as the blindfolded lady with the balance scales illustrates) is supposed to be blind, weighing the evidence with complete objectivity. But we are not completely objective. Justice is not totally blind, so decisions and rulings are very often tainted with injustice. Not so with God as Judge. His rulings conform to perfect righteousness, and by it He will one day judge the world by His appointed Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible condemns the taking of bribes. One of the most wicked sins in Israel, condemned by the Lord, was that the leaders oppressed the poor because the rich paid them bribes to rule in their favor. Such people should fear God’s wrath:
Exodus 23:7-8 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. (8) And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
Often, the Bible connects injustice to widows and orphans and other weak, defenseless people to the taking of bribes. Bribes, as Exodus says, blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. By their very nature, bribes originate from people who have money and influence and power. The weak and helpless cannot pay a bribe – they have nothing to pay it with! And so it is very often in the case of victims of abuse. Their abuser has the resources, they do not. The abuser is often a person of influence and reputation, unlike the victim. So justice is perverted. Bribes are given and accepted. The judge is blind – but in this case he is blind to what is right.
The Christian church, as Paul charged Timothy, must be a place where real justice is upheld and rendered. Where the bribe is detested. Sadly, as cases of Christian victims of abuse demonstrate, this is too often not the case. The abuser, in various ways, buys the judges. How? What are some ways that we can be found accepting bribes in the church?
- We show deference to those who are “of reputation.” That is, people who have power and influence in the church (which is something that should not be true of ANY of us) are often given a favorable ruling because, even though it may never have been overtly stated, we know that to rule against such a person is going to cost us. Once again, in cases of abuse, it is most often the abuser who has the reputation, power, and influence – not the victim.
- We may actually defer to the guilty because he or she is a major financial contributor to the church. This is virtually a literal bribe. I once had an abusive man tell me that if I did not rule in his favor, our church would “just fall apart.” He was not so covertly referring to the fact that he was a major contributor to the church. We did not rule in his favor. Our church finances suffered. But we have a clear conscience before Christ
- In contrast, the victim is often weak and defenseless, lacking money and influence and power. To side with her in her complaint of abuse will often mean that we will enter into her suffering too.
If we are following Christ and walking in His Spirit, we will hunger and thirst after true righteousness, no matter what the cost. We will energetically seek to protect and do right for the victim of abuse, regardless of the cost to us. This is the Way Jesus went. WE were abuse victims, enslaved to the greatest and most evil abuser of all time – the devil. The Son of God looked down upon us in eternity past, while we still were set against Him as His enemies, and had pity upon us. Setting us free and rendering us justice meant HE must go to the cross. Yet He did it.
Can we do less?