From time to time, I come across Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (or related) content that is outside the norm.

This article analyzing Luke 3:12-14 and John the Baptist’s views on corruption certainly fits this description.

Luke 3:12-14 states: Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

The article begins:

“Luke 3:12-14 narrates John the Baptist’s incisive responses to the questions put to him by tax collectors and soldiers. The context of the text is John’s preaching on repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He addresses the Jewish audience in preparation for the coming of the Messiah who was nationally expected by all. His message provokes in his listeners what may be termed a turning point question: ‘what should we do?’ Among the questioners are the toll collectors and soldiers of the Baptist’s time. By the questions these workers wish to mutually discern through the help of the Baptist what God intends for them in their own occupation and what he wants of them in their profession.

In response, John puts forward his ethical teaching that hits directly at the root of corrupt practices within the sphere of the people’s profession. The responses of John are strictly speaking not religious, rather they border on economical or professional ethics. They are interpreted in this work as measures against corrupt practices among public servants. They indicate an underlying corruption among the law enforcement officers of the Baptist’s time. The text therefore provides an insight into the reality of corrupt practices in the New Testament times, and the attempts by religious representatives to speak against them. Corruption is understood by the Transparency International as the abuse of entrusted power for private benefits and at the expense of the public good. This includes everyday abuse of power by public officials in their daily interactions with the ordinary citizens in the latter’s attempts to access basic goods and services. It includes extortion, robbery, embezzlement, blackmail, and greed addressed by John the Baptist in the passage under consideration. These are issues bordering especially on the unethical conducts of the toll collectors and soldiers of the Baptist’s time, and of public servants in contemporary societies. They are the consequences of people taking undue advantages of the opportunities available in their professions to exploit both the citizens and the state. They border on illegality, egoism, and disregard for the rule of law in the reckless exercise of public responsibilities.

The message of John the Baptist studied in this work provides an insight into reasons for these corrupt practices among tax collectors and soldiers of the New Testament era. These reasons include ‘not living within one’s means’ and ‘not acting according to the law’. These reasons also constitute the basis for corrupt practices in today’s society. John’s message, studied in the light of contemporary readers is therefore a call for people in today’s society to live within the limits of their wages, and act within the law or with integrity. In their conducts and ‘doings’ they are invited to follow the dictate of their consciences and as Christians they are called to respond to the law and will of God as interpreted by the Christ they follow. It is an invitation to religious leaders and representatives and indeed all Christians to speak out against corruption and be exemplary too in their conducts. It is a demand on people in authority to understand their duty as service to the public and consequently remain accountable to the same public.”

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