It’s hard to avoid the fact that another major political campaign is heating up in our country, and once again we’re subjected to an exposition of how easy it is for politicians to promise lavish gifts in order to promote themselves and buy votes. It reminds me of a guy I met years ago in my role as a counselor. He was a congenial, easy to like guy with better than average people skills, the kind of young man you might not feel bad about your daughter dating. His friends didn’t suspect that underneath the nice, average guy exterior, there was a man who felt compelled to steal things in public places, and who did so almost daily. The fact that he hadn’t spent most of his post-puberty life incarcerated was evidence that he had become quite clever and adept at stealing and avoiding detection. The fact that he was on probation when I met him was evidence that he eventually failed, and his larcenous ways eventually caught up with him.
I found it fascinating that most of the things he stole were things he never used, and things he didn’t really want or need. He stole things because he liked the challenge. His payoff was not just coming away with the stolen item; it was the thrill of doing it undetected, and in ways that didn’t arouse suspicion. Like a clever magician, he was good at distracting the attention of those who might be watching, so that they never noticed that the merchandise was missing until it was too late. It didn’t matter all that much to him what the targeted item was, only that he managed to steal it in full view without getting caught. “I’m curious,” I said to him once. “What did you do with all that stuff?” “Oh,” he replied in easy, casual tones, “Some of it I kept, but most of it I just gave away to other people.” Generosity is easy and attractive when you can get all the credit, and the cost gets passed along to someone else. Welcome to Politics 101.
It was impossible not to think of him as I reflected on what was passed off to the American public as a Democratic Presidential debate earlier this week. I was captivated, not to mention disturbed, by what seemed to be the single overriding theme. Debates characteristically involve conflict and confrontation over approaches to a variety of issues, but the only real contention among the candidates that night was a battle to see who could promise the most extensive array of free stuff to the largest number of potential recipients in exchange for their vote. Apparently, the only criteria required to be a viable candidate for the free stuff being offered was not to already have it. And in the unlikely event that some had already managed to acquire some version of the freebies offered, ‘not’ to upgrade their old one to a much newer and better version (at no cost to them, of course) would be unjust and unfair. Apparently, owning all the latest perks packed into every proposed new government handout is a basic, constitutionally protected human right for anyone living and breathing who manages to make it across one of our borders. After all, we’re becoming great lovers of government-bestowed ‘rights’ in this country – like the ‘right’, for instance, to kill and dismember inconsiderate babies who somehow manage to invade their mother’s body uninvited, and threaten to disrupt their lives at inconvenient times. Apparently, bequeathing all these rights, and the spoils that come with them, would amount to ‘social justice’. To which all the uninformed, ego-centric, ‘I-have-a-right-to-have-and-do-anything-I-want-whenever-I-want-at-someone-else’s-expense’ crowd would say a hearty ‘Amen’. It was such a Robin Hood sounding night.
One of the simple directives that God gave His people strikes me as particularly relevant in light of the political Kabuki Theater unfolding before us these days. It was given as God was in the process of molding His people into a unique kind of nation that would stand in stark contrast to the evil that characterized the nations surrounding them. In His characteristically brief, uncomplicated manner, He said,
“And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8 NKJV).
God isn’t against giving gifts and rewards. The very idea was His invention, but they were never intended to be used as a tool to manipulate others and distort the truth. When that objective is applied, they become bribes, and invoke God’s condemnation. Bribery involves at least two parties, the recipient and the one making the offer. It’s interesting that God directs His attention to the potential recipient. That doesn’t mean that the one who offers it is somehow exempt from condemnation, but the power of the bribe is never realized until someone takes it. The recipient’s discernment is blinded, and his words perverted in the taking of it. It is at that point that the recipient prostitutes himself or herself and become a slave to the one with the ‘free stuff’. The other factor that distinguishes bribery from legitimate gifts and rewards is its hidden agenda and secretive nature. When God gives gifts, He does it with full disclosure, and He pays the entire cost. His intentions are not hidden, His objectives are open and righteous, and His offerings benefit everyone. The one offering a bribe never does that.
Satan is the grand promiser of deceptive ‘gifts’, the master of hidden agendas. He’s the one behind every bribe ever offered, and he’s after a lot more than just our vote. Our challenge is not to stop the bribery that’s permeating the political scene or any other place where its promoters slither in. We would never succeed in doing that anyway. Our challenge is to walk in the light of God’s truth, and obey His directive not to blind ourselves and pervert our thinking by coveting their ‘free’ benefits. They come at the cost of our discernment, our access to a righteous perspective, and our freedom. The trinkets bribery offers are never really free . . . and can never replace the treasure lost for taking them.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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