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A King, Coined into Gold

Wisdom when you lose faith in institutions

Proverbs 17:7

7 Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool,
Much less lying lips to a prince.

Proverbs 29:4

4 The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.

Proverbs 20:8

8 A king who sits on the throne of judgment
Scatters all evil with his eyes.


“La mordida” is a phrase in Spanish that literally translates as “bite.” It can mean a number of things, including a that of a birthday party tradition. A cooking blog explains their understanding of this practice:

The Mexicans celebrate what they call the mordida, which is a tradition that states that when the first birthday boy or girl gets their faces shoved into the cake by the parent or other friends and family to take their first bite, everyone else sings, "mordida! mordida! mordida!.” 

[Check out delightful examples of this culinary custom HERE]

There is another, more sinister meaning to the phrase La mordida. “The bite” can refer to the bite put on you when someone in authority seeks or accepts a bribe. A friend and brother in Christ, who is a Spanish-speaking reader of Deep, messaged me about this after reading a recently posted study of Proverbs. The study was on bribery, and he described this practice of mixing business with justice is widely-held throughout Latin America. 

While giving and taking bribes is not exclusive to Latin American cultures, giving it a name like La mordida suggests it as a tolerated or accepted practice. Whether it is a tourist having to give a bribe to a policeman to avoid being hassled, or a business owner giving a little extra to a town official in order to construct a building, dealing with corrupt lower-level government officials can be an annoying but necessary means of doing business for everyday people.

But what happens when an entire culture, such as we have it here in the western world, loses faith in bigger things? What are the consequences when a people no longer believe in the major institutions of their lives, such as national government, elections, the justice system, and even the church?

The results are more than disastrous, they are even (as one recent political commentator put it) “truths too gargantuan to believe.” 

In other words, a people can simply have such difficulty contemplating the size and scope of betrayal by those in power, and the failure of an entire system, that they simply cannot even think about it. Or, they know something, somewhere, is terribly wrong–but they just cannot put a finger on it.

Music legend Bob Dylan felt this feeling during the 1960’s and penned his famous song, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” as a result. Lyrics such as these were soul-stirring for an entire generation of young people:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
And you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

When asked what, specifically, was his song meant to protest, Dylan replied that it was nothing specific: “I didn't mean ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’' as a statement,” he said in a 1964 interview, “It's a feeling.” That “feeling" became part of the anthem of the tumultuous decade of “the Sixties,” marked with riots, wars, cultural upheaval, and spiritual unrest. 

Solomon is no stranger to these things, and as he writes the book of Proverbs, he knows that when people lose faith in the big institutions that they depend on for stability, security, and ordered living, chaos and destruction will ensue. This destruction can be sparked by two things: lies and corruption. 

It is bad enough when an individual lies. The Ninth Commandment specifically forbids lying (Exodus 20:16), and instead commands one to live and speak truthfully in all his relationships. This is doubly true for governments, and especially national leaders:

7 Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool,
Much less lying lips to a prince.–Proverbs 17:7 

Solomon employs a study in contrasts here, comparing the smooth words of a “fool” to the lips of a prince who lies. The word for fool here denotes one of the strongest possible terms for “godlessness.” In contrast, a “prince” is nobleman who is a powerful and respected member of the king’s court. If a prince, (or elected official) is a liar, this is even more grotesque than the eloquent fool. 

In other words, an earthly ruler, be he a king or a city councilman, bears the weight of responsibility for a people. When Paul tells us in Romans 13 to obey civil leaders, he is not simply instructing the church to tolerate politics or endure government rule, but to understand that this is all part of God’s created order–for good or bad.

Leaders who make their people suffer because of their selfishness will be subject to a double-portion of God’s wrath. You can hear this in Jesus’s warning to corrupt religious officials: 

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.–Matthew 23:14

If you follow the news in recent years, you have become more and more aware that the governments of the west seem to increasingly ruling their people through lies. From the fiasco of the COVID-19 pandemic with disastrous lockdowns (“two weeks to stop the spread”), to impeachment theatre, election shenanigans, and telling people that inflation and economic failure is not real. 

The result of this is a people who has lost trust in elected officials to tell them the truth about anything.

You can lead by instilling coercion and fear, or you can lead by having the love and devotion of your people. As pastor Tim Keller explains: “You cannot be a real leader without character that all can see, respect, and therefore trust.”

Solomon provides another proverb to illustrate the other cause of a culture’s destruction, taking bribes:

4 The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.–Proverbs 29:4

Bribery on a small scale may be an accepted practice, but it usually reflects the reality of rule on a large scale by a national government. Here, Solomon again reveals contrasts: a king who “establishes the land by justice,” versus a corrupt king who is beholden to those who pay him.  

Bribery forms a relationship of reciprocity, which on a national scale, can foster cultural decay, and even its ultimate downfall. The danger of this is so real, the Constitution of the United States provides wording to prevent bribery on such a scale: 

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.–Article I, section 9, clause 8 of the US Constitution

The aim of this is to actually seek to prevent America from developing a titled aristocracy. By blocking foreign governments from corrupting American officials with gifts like titles of nobility, jewelry, or money, it seeks to ensure public officials pursue the interests of their constituents–and not their own bank accounts. When this happens, humble public servants become authoritarian oligarchs.

Like the grotesque thought of the lying prince, an elected official beholden to the cash of a foreign government or interest group bears the same emotional ugliness. Shakespeare captures the emotion of this in his play Henry V. In one scene, King Henry has been betrayed by three nobles–one a dear, personal friend–and as they are arrested for treason the king expresses his rage and disgust:

But, O,
What shall I say to thee, Lord Scroop? thou cruel,

Ingrateful, savage and inhuman creature!
Thou that didst bear the key of all my counsels,
That knew'st the very bottom of my soul,
That almost mightst have coin'd me into gold,
Wouldst thou have practised on me for thy use,

May it be possible, that foreign hire
Could out of thee extract one spark of evil
That might annoy my finger? 'tis so strange,
That, though the truth of it stands off as gross
As black and white, my eye will scarcely see it.–Henry V, Act II, Scene 2

[Check out Kenneth Branagh’s stirring rendition of this HERE.]

Henry’s anger is matched only by his revulsion of his betrayal by a noble friend who would have “coin'd me into gold” that had been given to him by the hated French as a bribe.

Bribes, like lies, come ultimately from the same source: the father of lies. The devil, who from the garden has sought to usurp the throne of God. As Paul warns the young church in Thessaloniki:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.–II Thessalonians 2:3-4

Commentator Bruce Waltke explains Solomon’s careful wording of “contributions” as a liturgical word meaning “donations to the temple.” These are probably a, “metaphor for bribes, blackmail, and other forms of ill-gotten gain demanded by the usurper who sits on God’s throne.”

An elected official, nobleman or royal sovereign who accepts bribes, is accepting a payment by Satan in order to rob God of His authority. It may be difficult to think of a corporate kickback as one of Judas Iscariot’s “30 pieces of silver,” but it ultimately seeks the same result. 

Alas, it seems that the modern leaders of the west have also accepted the evil of bribery as normal, for many accept the wealth of foreign nations for their own gain. An American president has shady dealings in Ukraine and China and has mysteriously grown fabulously wealthy–all while promoting policies and decline that benefits his nations enemies. 

As a result, people grow disgusted as they struggle to pay their own bills as the prices of normal goods, including food and gas, continue to get higher and higher. Is there no help against this injustice? Solomon provides a clue in another proverb:

8 A king who sits on the throne of judgment
Scatters all evil with his eyes.–Proverbs 20:8 

The image of a wise king who “scatters evil with his eyes” is an image of the King of Kings, whose reign is eternal:

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”–Revelation 11:15

Christ, by His completed work on the cross and victory over death, has ushered in an eternal reign that even now includes and protects His people–and His bride, the church. It is there that earthly lies and corruption are never to reign, and those charged with her care are given special authority–and warning:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;–I Peter 5:2-3

Are you disillusioned by the crumbling of trusted Institutions? Have you lost faith in the electoral process, and the word of presidents, parliaments and even priests? Has the church failed to protect you and provide a place of refuge? Look to the One who can provide your ultimate security and stability. 

In Christ you have an eternal assurance that in your fears and troubles you are seen. Resolve yourself to cling to Jesus and let His strong arms hold you safe and secure. For, as the psalmist says, when all else fails and in the midst of chaos:

2 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.–Psalm 62:2


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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