Proverb for the Day 18:16 — Baksheesh on You!

A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great

This wise saying is all about giving! One of four times this same Hebrew word is used in Proverbs, it’s translated “gift” or “bribe.”

In the western world, we make a great distinction between these two terms — one benefiting others, the other benefiting us.

But in the ancient Near East — and much of the world still today — these lines are blurred. It’s just how things get done.

Baksheesh is a Persian word (originally from Sanskrit) describing a millennia-old Middle and Far Eastern practice. I’ve learned to participate (although not enjoy!) it as part of everyday business in every country I’ve worked as an archaeologist.

Call it a gift, bribe, tip or fee — baksheesh is simply part of the system of getting things done — before or after the fact. This proverb particularly notes our “gift opens the way…into the presence of the great.” 

I understand how that might work, but I’ve only baksheeshed (not sure that’s a real word!) the everyday working man. Admittedly never really certain if it was a tip or a fee, I just paid it to accomplish what I needed.

Yet, in principle, I’ll suggest we do something similar here in the west. We compliment someone or offer help with the hope of making a good impression to benefit us in some way — we just call it networking!

I think the message of this verse is simply that such an activity in business and relationships is effective. A wise person can understand the concept and practice it skillfully.

BUT, what this proverb doesn’t discuss it our motivation!

Obviously, I’m not advocating something dishonest or illegal. But I will suggest…go ahead, keep your heart right and baksheesh on!