Beware of Internal Bribes

Yael Eckstein  |  July 11, 2023

One hand giving the other hand money

Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. — Deuteronomy 16:19

This month, we will look at the theme of justice as one of the bedrock principles of our Judeo-Christian values. Enjoy!

At the end of a particularly exhausting week, I was burnt out by the competing demands of work, parenthood, community, and life in general. After some self-reflection, I knew that prioritizing my own self-care would give me the energy I needed to recommit to all of the things that make my life so rich. As I set my alarm early that night so I could start my day with exercise, I was feeling great about myself.

A few hours later, however, when that dreaded beeping disrupted my cozy sleep, I felt differently. “Sleep is just as important to my wellbeing as exercise,” I told myself as I hit the snooze button and rolled back over. While this is true in principle, even in that moment, I knew it wasn’t true for me that morning.

One of the hardest parts of being human is being honest with ourselves when our deeply held needs and values conflict with one another. When we are in the public sphere, we may find it easier to “do the right thing” because others will hold us accountable or our reputations are on the line. But it is in those private, quiet moments when we have no one to answer to but ourselves and God that our personal integrity is really challenged.

Beware of Internal Bribes

This passage from Scripture explores the laws regarding judges. We read, “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” The Jewish sages explain that while this warning is directed at judges, it is applicable to each and every one of us.

When we judge our lives—when we make decisions about our beliefs and lifestyle—we must be beware of the “internal bribes” we so often make with ourselves. It’s so easy to justify the “wrong” choice by telling ourselves that what is easy, comfortable, or convenient is also “right.”

Our decision-making can be so easily swayed, our eyes so easily blinded, by material objects, physical pleasures, and self-justification. Beware the internal bribes!

Your Turn:

The next time you face an internal dilemma, pray to God to help you push past the “bribes” that cloud your clarity so that you can see yourself honestly and make the right choice.

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