By Michael E. Brooks
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight” (Proverbs 11:1 NKJV).
I had rarely worried about the accuracy of scales before beginning foreign mission campaigns. In the U.S., we have become so accustomed to federal standards and inspection that most consumers have pretty much developed a blind trust in the scales and other measuring devices used in merchandising.
Oh, we are perfectly aware that some seek to defraud, and we will occasionally check to see if the weights or volumes of a transaction seem to be what they should be, but it is not something that most people worry unduly about.
In other countries, the government is much less active in protecting consumers. Standards may not exist. Systems of checking and protection may be scarce, and even if legally provided for, the enforcement is often lax. Not infrequently, the enforcers themselves perpetrate or assist in fraud.
In South Asia, when we go into the markets to make purchases, in almost every case the local person making the purchase will take merchandise out of its packaging, visually inspect it, and turn it on, or plug it in to see if it actually works.
If work is contracted for, as in the repair of a vehicle, whenever feasible someone is left on site to watch the workers and ensure that the repair is done legitimately and that no substitutions are made and nothing in the vehicle is taken or damaged. In spite of all this caution, we occasionally find that we have been cheated.
No characteristic is more necessary to social interaction than trust. Trust requires truthfulness or honesty. The Biblical concept involved is that of justice. When scales are honest and instruments of measurement are reliable justice is assured.
Another way to express justice is as equity. When punishment or recompense is equal to the wrong done, justice has been achieved. From the positive perspective, when reward matches effort, that is just. We speak of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” In this context, honesty is synonymous with justice.
Given the above realities, it is not surprising that the Bible insists upon honesty and truthfulness as absolute necessities for the righteous person.
From the ninth commandment (“You shall not bear false witness” Exodus 20:16) to the verdict that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8), the Holy Spirit is adamant in his insistence that only truth be spoken and only honesty be practiced.
I have long been impressed with the Old Testament use of the word “Abomination.” I am convinced that this term describes those things which are inherently offensive to God.
No doubt this is at least in part because they are totally opposed to his nature. Our God is “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Dishonesty is foreign to his nature, and offensive to him in every way.
It is therefore no surprise that the dishonest scales of the fraudulent merchant are hated. Governments may fail to protect their people. Officials may conspire to cheat and rob. But God is a God of justice. He is true, and supports truth. He will protect the innocent and punish the wicked. He is just.
By Michael E. Brooks