Proverbs 21:14 "A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath."
Gift (H4976) – to give, reward. This Hebrew word is used only five times in the Bible, and can refer to a gift to another or a bribe ((Genesis 34:12, Num. 18:11, Prov. 18:16, 19:6)
Reward (H7810) – bribe, gift, present. This Hebrew word is always used in a bad light, for bribery.
Secret (H5643) – hiding place, covering, covert, secret place.
What is bribery? Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines a "bribe" as a: "A price, reward, gift or favor bestowed or promised with a view to pervert the judgment, or corrupt the conduct of a judge, witness or other person. A bribe is a consideration given or promised to a person, to induce him to decide a cause, give testimony, or perform some act contrary to what he knows to be truth, justice or rectitude. It is not used in a good sense, unless in familiar language. In familiar language, it is sometimes used in a good sense; as, to bribe a child to take a medicine."
God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
Gifts are powerful. They are a neutral element, but can be used for good or evil. The Hebrew words in this passage for reward and gift can both be translated as "bribe." A bribe is used to appease another’s anger or prohibit justice from being carried out. Bribery is always wrong (Deut. 10:17, 16:19). God hates bribery, and never accepts it. You can never bribe God to give you favor by doing what is right. We cannot earn God’s grace or favor. God loves us the same on our worst as much as He does on our best day. He is unchanging, but that does not mean because of His unchanging love for us that He also is not just. Choices have consequences. Our giving ought to be done without any strings attached.
An example of a gift in secret not being a bribe is when Abigail gave David and his men a gift to save her husband’s life. She gave it without her husband, Nabal, knowing about it. This gift with a heartfelt apology saved her husband’s and servant’s lives that day. This gift also kept David and his men from sinning by seeking revenge. Abigail wisely appeased David’s wrath (1 Samuel 25)
A gift in secret over a gift given openly has greater power and reward. Consider what Jesus said regarding how we should give to Him, "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:3-4). In this passage, the goal is not to be rewarded openly, but to give to the Lord from our heart secretly, not openly for the praise of men. God wants all our giving, fasting, and prayer to Him to be done in secret (Mat 6:1-18). Our motive in giving, prayer, and fasting ought to be love for the Lord. He must be our God.
I like what Matthew Henry says about this verse, "If money can conquer the fury of the passions, shall reason, the fear of God, and the command of Christ, be too weak to bridle them?" It ought not to be, especially in the life of a believer who has put their faith in Christ alone to save them.
In application, let’s ask ourselves several questions. "Do I give gifts to those in authority over me in order to manipulate the carrying out of justice or to wrongly further my own desires? What amount of money or gift would have to be given to me to pervert justice? Does God or something else have a greater sway on what I do? Do I hate bribery as God hates it? Is my giving done in secret to the Lord?" Have I purposed not to give or accept bribes?