Corruption costs the world about 1 trillion dollars each year. It transfers wealth from the powerless to the powerful. A corrupt people cannot trust their own society. Globally, corruption is the norm. I was surprised that some cultures found a CURE.
My first experience of a culture of trust was in Holland. My host took me to a dairy to buy milk. I had never heard of machines milking cows. No one was selling the milk. My friend just opened the tap and filled his jug. Then he grabbed a bowl filled with cash. He paid in a 20 Guilder note, took the change, and started walking away with his milk. I was stunned. I said, “Man! If you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!”
He laughed. In a flash I understood a basic cause of my nation’s poverty. If customers took the milk and the money, the dairy owner would have to hire a salesgirl. But if the consumer is corrupt, why would the supplier be honest? He would add water to increase the quantity of milk. Frustrated by watered-down milk, the consumer would ask the government to appoint Milk Inspectors. But why should the Inspector be honest? He would take bribes and allow adulterated milk to be sold. The consumer will have to bear the cost of the milk, water, the sales-girl, the Inspector, and the bribe – none of which add any value to the milk. In paying for them, the consumer pays simply for his sin.
Paying for all this means that you don’t have money left to buy products that actually add value, such as milk turned into ice-cream or cheese.
How did Holland create a culture of integrity? Medieval Europe was as corrupt as India is today. Holland’s Reformation began in the soul of a German monk called Martin Luther. He struggled to find purity of heart. He followed all the religious rituals of his Church, fasted and prayed; went on pilgrimages; confessed every sin he could think of. But none of these gave Luther an assurance that all his sins were forgiven or that he was accepted by God.
The light dawned on Luther when he read New Testament writer Paul the apostle. Paul had also tried to become righteous by following his sect of Judaism. Then he learnt that our religious works or karma don’t make us righteous before God. They can make us religious bigots.
The Bible reveals a God who is very different from gods who want bribes in exchange for blessings. God sacrificed His own Son to save us. Our religious efforts cannot earn salvation. It is a gift received by faith. When the resurrected Christ came to live in his heart, Luther’s inner darkness turned into light. That enabled him to oppose the corruption of his church at the risk of his life.
Luther knew that protest does not eradicate corruption. Transforming a nation requires cultivating character. That is why God gave us the Scriptures. Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by God’s inspiration, and is profitable for correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” [2 Timothy 3: 16-17].
The desire to reform his nation inspired Luther to translate the Bible into German and promote a national educational system built upon God’s word.
Poverty does not cause corruption; corruption causes poverty. To combat both, our nations need more than aid, investment or protest. They need hearts and minds that are transformed.