A False Balance
A false balance is abomination to the LORD:
1. This passage speaks about dishonesty and deception in business transactions.
a. Balances or scales were used to measure all the goods sold in the marketplace.
b. How they worked: a one pound weight was placed on one side of the scale…and one pound of grain on the other. When they balanced in the middle, the consumer knew that he was getting one pound for his money.
2. However, if the merchant was dishonest, there were two ways he could cheat his customers.
a. He could use a false or uneven balance.
• If the balance arms were of unequal length, the scale would appear to say that they were equal, but they would not be equal.
• It works like a sea-saw. The short end requires more weight to balance the bar.
• Thus, dishonest merchants could use a “false balance”—with arms of unequal length.
• They also used to come up with tricks to falsify their balances. (let one side get dirty and greasy and all gummed up with whatever they were selling, and keep the other side clean.
• The Talmud required merchants to clean their scales either weekly, daily, or monthly, depending upon the product they sold.
b. He would use unequal weights.
• Some merchants would shave off a few ounces from his “weight.” (or the yardstick)
• Hence, the consumer would think he was getting a full pound, but he was not. He was being cheated.
• The merchant claimed he was selling a full pound, but it may have been only 15 ounces. The customer was getting shortchanged and the merchant was getting rich.
• Years ago in America, when some of our coins were silver, men began shaving the edges off the coins and saving the silver.
• Then the government decided to put those little lines on the edges of quarters so you could tell if you were getting a full quarter.
3. Amos 8:5 speaks of this dishonest practice
• making the ephah small (the weight was shaved)
• making the shekel great (the money; cost; their profit increases)
• falsifying the balances by deceit
• vs. 6 – the rich merchants took advantage of the poor (the rich become richer and the poor become poorer)
• vs. 7 – God takes notice; He will never forget!
• Vs. 8 – the land will be judged for this deception and oppression
4. Micah 6:10-11 – Micah also rebukes the people for this sin of cheating.
• He calls that dishonest gain as “treasures of wickedness” from a “scant measure.”
5. This is not a new phenomenon! It is as old as the hills…
a. Ever since the fall in Eden, men have been lying, cheating, deceiving, and stealing from one another in the marketplace.
6. This kind of behavior is a violation of four of the 10 commandments.
a. Thou shalt not bear false witness (lie)
b. Thou shalt not steal
c. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
d. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods
7. Unfortunately, the Jews did not always obey the law.
a. Lev. 19:35-26 – God had to record a very specific command to the merchants…
b. Here God spells out clearly that shaving the ephahs was contrary to His commandments. It was stealing!
c. Why were they not to do this? “I am the Lord.” I said so!
d. The real reason for honesty is because of who God is. He is true. He is pure. He is holy… honest… reliable…
e. For a believer to steal not only harms the person from whom he steals—it disgraces God! It is a poor reflection on Him!
f. Deut. 25:13 – they were not even to OWN different kinds of measures…because of the temptation to use them!
• They were to use only the standard nationally accepted weights…
• They were not even to possess in their bags anything that might even be used for deception…
g. I Chron. 23:29 implies that there was a national standard weight… and that it was likely kept in the Temple area and monitored by the Levites.
8. It is probably no great surprise, but merchants in our country don’t obey this rule either!
a. Have you ever bought anything in a magazine that looks much larger in the picture than it does when you get it in the mail?
b. Have you ever bought a roll of Christmas wrap?
c. Have you ever bought a large box of cereal only to discover that when you open the box, it is only half full?
d. Then there are the proverbial butchers who “accidentally” leave their thumb on the scale…
e. The gas station owners who skim… adding an extra cent or two to the price… or adjusting their pumps to give a hair less than a full gallon?
f. How about the grocery stores where you have one price on the shelf, but it rings up more at the counter?
g. Or the paving companies that charge an arm and a leg and leave only a thin membrane of asphalt on your driveway!
h. Have you ever really counted your bottle of aspirin to see if there are REALLY 100 tablets in it?
i. And how about all the fine print in contracts, which the merchants hope no one will ever read?
j. Recently many food companies were caught selling their products in slightly smaller packages for the same price. (A deceptive way of charging more)
k. We call it price gouging… cutting corners… skimming… fraud…or scams. The ancients called it “false weights.”
l. Regardless of whatever men call it, God calls it abomination!
• The one that really gets me is when you spend $20,000 on a new car and they give you a spare tire that’s just about big enough for your lawn mower!
• That’s an abomination in my books!
9. Prov. 20:10,23 – divers weights = abomination
a. Having a bag of slightly different weights enabled the merchant to sell an honest weight to his friends and to cheat those he did not like. It opens the door to being a respecter of persons; bigotry; discrimination…
b. Sometimes they would have two separate sets of weights… one for buying and one for selling… and would use them to his own advantage… when he bought, he would get more than he paid for; when he sold the customer would get less then he paid for.
c. God called divers weights abomination… what makes it SO abominable is that it is conducted under the pretence of truth and honesty… God hates it.
d. We should hate it too.
e. Jack the Painter…
But a just weight is his delight.
1. In contrast to the “abomination” of dishonesty is the “delight” of honesty.
2. The “just weight” is one that conforms to the national standard. It is the accepted weight… the one the customer is EXPECTING.
3. It represents fair trade… honesty… respect for other human beings made in the image of God…God delights in that.
4. God is pleased (delighted!) with honesty in all the affairs of life… whether a man is selling a 10 million-dollar estate or a pencil!
a. This passage indicates to us that God is cognizant of every transaction that takes place on earth.
b. Every transaction… every deal… every trade is conducted in God’s presence… under His watchful eye.
c. The consumer may not realize he is being taken, but God does.
d. God is angry with deception and thievery. He is pleased with honesty.
5. The Christian ought to be more interested in pleasing God in his business enterprise than making money.
a. Perhaps everyone else is the business is cheating… that does not mean the believer may.
b. Perhaps everyone in the business cheats the government in reporting taxable income… that does not give us permission to do so. That is no different than the butcher with his finger on the scale.
c. Our goal should be to bring pleasure to God with our WHOLE life… including the business side of life… our financial affairs…
6. A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work. (Prov. 16:11)
a. They are the LORD’S. They are HIS work. Why?
• Because God is truth. God is trustworthy.
• God is fair and just… justice is His work.
• Honesty is a reflection of God’s character.
• Even the unsaved are made in God’s image. They too have a sense of righteousness… they understand honesty… they expect it.
• There are many unsaved businessmen who are honest in their dealings. If so, that is the Lord’s work… a reflection of His image in them.
• God DELIGHTS in that.
b. As believers, we should certainly want to please God. When we do our work… it should a reflection of His work… honesty…