Why bribes mostly work

“Every man has his price.” Or almost every man then, but what is it that sets the few who cannot be bought apart?

In Matthew 28:11-15 we have an example of a bribe: “… behold, some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, saying, ‘Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and make you free of worry.’ So they took the money and did as they were told.” (World English Bible)

Consider the context. Only an hour or so earlier (see verse 4) these men were still frightened out of their wits by the sight of that angel and by the earthquake that had preceded him. And now, a large amount of silver later, the pathetic protection promised by this sorry gathering of schemers already outweighed all that.

These guards knew better than anybody who was lying! Yet “they took the money”. What is it that gets people to “take money” in open exchange for their integrity? Here the influence of those priests may have helped. Don’t forget: they were going to persuade even the governor. Imagine: God’s priests manipulating men high and low to promote lies! But there was still a need for all that silver. Indeed it seems that bribes mostly work because to most people material advantages here and now matter most — forget earthquakes, angels and conscience.

But it says “some of the guards”. There are also people to whom truth weighs what it weighs, however high the pile of money, however scheming the chief priests behind it.