Proverbs 17:8 says "A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers" (NASB). I checked the NIV and it translates about the same. So is this passage saying it's okay to bribe people? -- Brian Caserto (Ithaca, New York)

Not at all! It is merely describing the way things work in the real world. Ecclesiastes also talks about corruption in government. Not that this should be the norm, but simply because this is a true-to-life description. Often the Bible describes the way things work, without passing judgment on whether they are ideal, permissible, or wrong. We must be careful how we interpret the Bible!

For more on how to read the proverbs, please see my seven-lesson audio set, The Wisdom Literature.

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