Sometimes one’s own naivete—or, more precisely, the turtle-like pace of one’s learning—are enough to make teeth ache.
I remember as though it were yesterday the moment in the late 1980s when I realized for the first time the calamitous cost to a society that is incurred when justice is for sale.
My illumination came via a throw-away comment on the part of Dr. John Kessler, a Netherlands-born colleague in Costa Rica, who no doubt did not fully anticipate the ignorance of his conversation partner.
‘When bribes come into play’, John said without a hint of mirth or enjoyment, ‘then only those who can pay get justice. Those who cannot pay are ruled out ahead of time’.
A light came on. On this late afternoon, a hemisphere removed, the Proverb blows oxygen upon the lamp’s feeble flame:
The wicked accept a concealed bribe
to pervert the ways of justice.
Biblical prescription employs an uncanny knack for anticipating dysfunction.
It as though the Tradition’s accumulated voice articulates for all who will listen: ‘You do not yet understand this, but trust me: this leads to that‘.
Wisdom glimpses before time the inexorable path of destruction upon which certain behaviors fix a community. Biblical wisdom does not flinch in calling out the inevitable result.
A bribe is such a small thing. For those who can pay, its convenience is entirely persuasive.
Therein lies the tragedy: For those who can pay …
YHWH, we are told on repeated occasions, hears the groans of those who cannot pay. It is not a good thing to encounter YHWH, bribes paid up, in a dark alley when his little ones have been crushed.