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!