“At the same time [Felix] was hoping that Paul would give him money. For that reason, he sent for him even more frequently and conversed with him. But when two years had elapsed, […] he left Paul in custody.”
How can a Christian distinguish between giving a bribe and tipping an official to ensure a service is rendered?
The Bible clearly condemns bribing. (Ps. 15:1,5)
But what could be considered a bribe in one country, could be considered a customary tip in another.
I remember a traffic officer in Mexico who would not release us until my aunt (not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses), implied she would give him a tip.
On other occasions in which my husband and I were pulled over, we accepted citations for minor traffic infractions instead of handing over any cash.
But it is true that many government officials, especially in developing nations, do not make enough money to live on, so whether or not a Christian decides to tip one is a matter of personal conscience. (Mark 12:17; 1 Cor. 10:31-33)
It would be blatantly wrong to give something with the intent of evading justice or seeking preferential treatment over others(Deut. 16:19; Matt. 7:12)
Despite his reputation for corruption, Felix as governor did have a legal right to hold Paul indefinitely without handing him a verdict. (Watchtower. 2001, December 15. “I Appeal to Caesar!”)
If Paul had caved in to bribing him, he would have been breaking Roman law.
As Christians, we find comfort in knowing that Jehovah will bring ultimate justice and he cannot be bought. (Deut. 10:17)
“[…] Out of the heart come wicked reasonings […].”
Do I ever try to justify unethical behavior to myself when tempted to do something wrong?
It is human nature to have a sinful inclination, but if I am not careful, I could end up a slave to my own whims, and also end up hurting those who matter most, including God. (Jer. 17:9)
Instead of entertaining sinful notions, it is wiser to not let them nest in my heart to begin with. (Prov. 4:23)
“So I reprimanded them and called down a curse on them and struck some of the men and pulled out their hair and made them swear by God: ‘You should not give your daughters to their sons, and you should not accept any of their daughters for your sons or yourselves.'”
Was Nehemiah’s reprimand toward the Jewish men who had married pagan women a cruel overreaction?
To answer this question, let’s look at other Bible passages that warned the Jews against this practice.
“But if you […] form marriage alliances with them […] They will become a trap and a snare and a scourge on your flanks and thorns in your eyes until you have perished from this good land […]”(Josh. 23:12,13).
“For they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods; then Jehovah’s anger will blaze against you, and he will swiftly annihilate you.”(De. 7:4).
Because the Jews could not count on God’s protecting them as a People if they married pagan women, obedience to this particular mandate was a matter of life or death.
It implied the survival of the nation to which the Messiah would eventually be born (Luke 12:48).
This is why Nehemiah deemed it necessary to urgently carry out a form of discipline common to their day: corporal punishment.
“If the wicked one deserves to be beaten, the judge will have him lie down prostrate, and he will be beaten in his presence. The number of strokes should correspond to the wickedness of his deed,” (De. 25:2).
“Bruises and wounds purge away evil, and beatings cleanse one’s innermost being,” (Prov. 20:30).
“And everyone who does not observe the Law of your God and the law of the king should have judgment executed on him promptly, whether it is death, banishment, a fine, or imprisonment,” (Ezra 7:26).
Though this is definitely not an exercise in supporting corporal punishment toward one’s neighbor, one can understand how Nehemiah’s actions as governor of the Jews would not have been seen as extreme as a reader may find them today.
Jehovah promptly corrected His People through Nehemiah because he loved them (Heb. 12:6).
Their lifestyle would have otherwise brought about His disapproval and as a result, their own annihilation.
Then David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying: “Give me my wife Michal […] So Ishbosheth sent to take her from her husband, Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband kept walking with her, weeping as he followed her as far as Bahurim. Then Abʹner said to him: “Go, return!” At that he returned.
~2 Samuel 3:14-16
Never mind that David already had sons from six different women at the time of this event (2 Sam 3:2-5).
After several years of being on the run, David wanted his first wife back- the original one- the princess for whom he risked his life in battle for (1 Sam. 18:27).
It is touching that Michal’s new husband, Paltiel, followed her and wept at her departure.
I find it noteworthy that God’s word should include this emotive detail amidst so many stories of conquest and bloodshed.
The princess Michal was moved from one man to another as if she were an asset, and it did not matter if she originally had been very much in love with David or if Paltiel was now in love with her (1 Sam. 18:20).
What we learn here is that marriage is marriage and David had the legal right over Michal because he married her first.
It was his decision not to divorce her despite the distance between them.
Although modern marriages also undergo certain psychological trauma, we live in a mostly monogamous society in which fidelity is expected both ways and infidelity is conducive to the dissolution of the marriage (Matt. 19:9).
While it is easy for us as readers to follow David’s train of thought, we should also observe that God took note of Paltiel’s reaction.
Jehovah is not a cold-hearted God nor is he indifferent to the feelings of those who are not even serving him.
“You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your God.”
This is essentially a law against money laundering.
The principle that God doesn’t want dirty money calls to mind the story of Judas and the 30 silver coins he got from betraying Christ (Matt. 27:5).
After committing a grave sin, a person might feel compelled to right a wrong through financial methods.
But serious wrongdoing can only be erased before God if there is a turning of the heart (Eze. 18:31).
More important than the amount a person or entity donates to a charity are the spirit and means that were used to acquire that money.
Was it whole-hearted honest labor? Was it through the sale of something dear and valuable?
If we are living morally unclean lives, we cannot just buy a seat in the house of God’s true worship. Salvation would be a mere illusion (Eze. 7:19).
Religions hold a great deal of the blame, as they habitually accept considerable donations from organized crime members, a sin for which they will be held accountable (Rev. 18:4,5,8,24).
“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”
~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4
To be honest, this passage shook my faith.
Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?
Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).
The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.
The passage explains:
“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)
If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).
After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).
And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).
The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.
We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.
For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?
In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).
“You must now cleanse your hearts and stop being so stubborn.”
A more literal translation from the original Hebrew is: “And you must circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and not harden your necks any longer,” (De. 10:16, Reference Bible, 1984 revision).
Under Mosaic Law, Israelites were obligated to remove the foreskin of a baby boy’s penis eight days after birth (Le. 12:2,3).
It was a “sign of the covenant” Jehovah had formed with their ancestor, Abraham (Gen. 17:9-11).
However, physical circumcision was not the key to salvation.
They needed to be sincere in their dealings toward one another and accept God’s direction.
To “circumcise” the heart means to ‘love Jehovah with all your heart and all your soul,’ (De. 30:6).
This implies getting rid of immoral or arrogant attitudes which could keep God’s spirit from tapping into our thinking and motivating good deeds (Acts 7:51).
The aforementioned passage continues:
“Jehovah your God […] executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You too must love the foreign resident […]”(De. 10:17-19).
That is why the covenant Christ made with his followers did not call for a physical mark such as circumcision (John 13:35).
Rather, Christians are obligated “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world,” (Jam. 1:27).
In effect, “real” circumcision means to render sacred service with a clean heart by God’s spirit (Php. 3:3).