Abuse of government or private power for personal benefit acts as a brake on the economy, amounting to more than 5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. But beyond the economic cost due to market distortions caused by corruption stand the safety issues – the police officer who takes a bribe instead of insisting on the roadworthiness of an oil truck, or the safety inspector who, for a “fee,” approves a substandard factory. Truly, corruption can greatly affect the quality of life in a country. And where the justice system is open to being bought, it may be hard to feel happy about your neighbors and your country.
While laws insisting on transparency certainly play a key role, ultimately eliminating corruption requires changing attitudes and perceptions. And here our concept of God enters the picture. Does humanity labor under a misconception of God, and does that “corrupted” sense of God color our perception of those around us – lowering our expectation of ourselves and others, diminishing our expectation of quality of life?
When St. Paul preached on Mars’ Hill in Athens, he educated his listeners about the “unknown God” (Acts 17:23). He put aside the stereotypes about God as being a far-off spiritual being who created the world and generally leaves it up to us to be moral or not, and then punishes us here or hereafter for our behavior. He defined God as knowable.
Looking at the four Gospels in the Bible, one finds that Jesus knew God profoundly. His actions indicate the nature of God most clearly – in his being merciful and forgiving, and in reforming the corrupt (see John 8:1-11, Luke 23:34, and Luke 19:1-10, respectively). At every point Jesus taught and illustrated that God is infinite good and expresses only good – not evil – in each of us, His children.
God as infinite good means that we never need to fear that we will not have enough. As we are motivated by the love of God and the love of our fellowman, we discover that God gives us all that we need to go forward in His service, and that skirting the law is not necessary or helpful for us to progress. Further, God as infinite good also means that we need not be victimized by someone looking to exploit us.
Several years ago I was on a speaking tour in a developing country. Before I was to speak at a university, in conversation with the students, I casually asked what the proportion of women to men was at the university. They said that there were more women than men among first-year students, but that the proportion of women to men was much lower among students from other years. When I asked why that was, the students delicately explained that in many cases, if female students wanted good grades, they had to submit to being sexually exploited by the professors – professors who in many cases had actually purchased their university positions.
In a neighboring country with the same problem, I had a conversation with a Christian Scientist, a person who knows well the teaching that there is one all-powerful good, which is God. He said that he had five children, sons and daughters, all of whom had graduated from university. Fully aware of their corrupt educational system, he had explained to his children that they could be sure that he would never pay a bribe on their behalf. Rather, he told them that he expected that each of them would see everyone, classmates and professors, as being created in God’s image and likeness – honest, intelligent, fair, and loving. And that’s what they did. They all graduated without either being exploited or paying a bribe.
Corruption exists in both developing and so-called developed countries, but wherever the problem exists, the mental discipline of fearlessly holding to an infinite God, and seeing each of us as His reflection, helps foster a greater expression of honesty, integrity, and fairness. The founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, in her main work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” wrote: “Take away wealth, fame, and social organizations, which weigh not one jot in the balance of God, and we get clearer views of Principle. Break up cliques, level wealth with honesty, let worth be judged according to wisdom, and we get better views of humanity” (p. 239).
What practical, spiritual ideas for helping you and your country – and indeed all humanity – progress in every way, and be free of corruption!