Differing weights and unequal measures--both are detestable to the LORD.
The repetition of this maxim (see above) is an indication of the importance that should be attached to the subject. It is one that affects a very large proportion of mankind, and that affects men nearly every day of their life. The text reminds us -
I. THAT BUSINESS IS WITHIN THE PROVINCE OF RELIGION. The man who says, "Business is business, and religion is religion," is a man whose moral and spiritual perceptions are sadly confused. "God's commandment is exceeding broad," and its breadth is such as will cover all the transactions of the market. Commerce and trade, as much as agriculture, are "the Lord's;" it is an order of human activity which is in full accord with his design concerning us; and it is a sphere into which he expects us to introduce our highest principles and convictions, in which we may be always serving him.
II. THAT DISHONESTY IS OFFENSIVE IN HIS SIGHT. "A false balance is his abomination" (Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 20:10). Dishonesty is evil in his sight, inasmuch as:
1. It is a flagrant violation of one of his chief commandments. The second of all the commandments is this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (see Matthew 22:29). But to cheat our neighbour in the market is to do to him what we should strenuously protest against his doing to us.
2. It is a distinct breach of what is due to our brother. It is a most unbrotherly action; it is an act done in conscious disregard of all the claims our fellow men have on our consideration. Moreover, it is an injury to the society of which we are members; for it is one of those wrongs which are crimes as well as sins; it is an act which strikes at the root of all fellowship, all commerce between man and man.
3. It is an injury done by a man to himself. No man can rob his brother without wronging his own soul. He is something the worse forevery act of dishonesty he perpetrates. And he who is systematically defrauding his neighbours is daily cutting into his own character, is continually staining his own spirit, is destroying himself.
III. THAT HONESTY IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. "A just weight is his delight." Not that all honest dealing is equally acceptable to him. Much here, as everywhere, depends upon the motive. A man may be honest only because it is the best policy, because he fears the exposure and penalty of fraud: there is small virtue in that. On the other hand, he may be strictly fair and just in all his dealings, whether his work be known or unknown, because he has a conviction of what is due to his neighbour, or because he has an abiding sense of what God would have him be and do. In this case his honesty is as truly an act of piety, of holy service, as was a sacrifice at the temple of Jehovah, as is a prayer in the sanctuary of Christ. It is an act rendered "unto the Lord," and it is well pleasing in the sight of God his Saviour; he "serves the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24). It is a great thing that we need not leave the shop or the ship, the office or the field, in order to render acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord our God. By simple conscientiousness, by sterling and immovable integrity, whatever the pest we occupy, maintained by us with a view to the observant eye of our ever-present Master, we may honour and please him as much as if we were bowing in prayer or lifting up our voice in praise in the worship of his house. - C.
Divers weights and divers measures; both of them are alike abomination to the Lord. I.
DISHONESTY IN TRADE IS VARIOUS IN ITS FORMS. "Divers weights and divers measures... and a false balance."
II. DISHONESTY IN TRADE IS OFFENSIVE TO GOD.
1. Dishonesty is known to Him: His eye is on our business transactions, and no names or pretences, however plausible, can deceive Him.
2. Dishonesty is abhorred by Him. It is "an abomination unto the Lord."
III. DISHONESTY IN TRADE IS GREAT FOLLY AND SIN. This seems to be the idea of the latter clause of ver. 23: "A false balance is not good." The man who is dishonest for gain sacrifices —
1. The greater for the less.
2. The spiritual for the material.
3. The eternal and permanent for the temporal and uncertain.
4. The Divine for the worldly. Dishonesty is arrant folly; the man who gains by fraud is a great loser.Conclusion:
1. Transact business by the rule laid down by our Lord (Matthew 7:12).
2. Transact business as in the sight of God.
All pound weights do not draw 16 ounces. Every yard stick is not quite 36 inches long. There are multitudes of things short weight, and not a few short measure. If all men were weighed and measured, some of us would need to be placed under short sticks, or require a big "make weight" to bring us up to the right standard. Besides men, there are things not quite full measure. Many things sold and used in Manchester, you may depend upon it, would be "short measure," especially when compared with the standards the excise officers are in the habit of carrying about with them. I have met many men that would weigh 14 stone, but if you try to weigh their common sense it would not reach 14 ounces. There are hundreds of men whose tailors may be able to tell you how much cloth it would take to cover them; their shoemakers could tell you that their feet measured 9, 10, or 11 inches in length; but if you tried to measure all their good deeds — deeds of kindness done at home — deeds of sympathy to those who are poor — acts of love and mercy such as angels delight to see, and God smiles upon — you could do it with a 35-inch stick. And the misfortune is that these people are always the tall talkers. Talking does little work. Talking, minus doing, is minus weight. But there are some men that weigh too much. When I was a lad I used to see butter sold that was called "long weight." Well, what was that? Eighteen ounces to the pound. I have met men more than 18 ounces to the pound. If they are workmen they can do twice as much as others in the same time. If you talk to them about their wives — there are not such women in the world. Their children are perfect models; their horses are better than their neighbours; and if they go out to buy goods, they can always get more for their money than anybody else, often, indeed, 25s worth for their sovereign. But get a little nearer to them, and you will find the work they do needs doing over again; as to their children, they are unruly and impudent; whilst the bargains they make are no bargains at all. I want now to look more particularly at men "short weight." (Belshazzar instanced.) Pride? Can a proud man be short weight? Look at him, how big he is! Ah! you can measure some people's pride, and you will get 37 inches to the yard. It takes 24 yards of silk to cover the pride of some women — and it will take 24 months to pay for it. Belshazzar was not the only proud person the world has known. I am afraid that pride exists in these days as well as in those.
Trade tricksters are not called highly respectable in Scripture, whatever they are in society. Apologists for tricks in trade say that the real fault is in the consumer, who will have a cheap article. On which showing, the whole charge of adulteration, and of the wickedness of selling worsted and silk for silk, shoddy for broadcloth, and sloe-juice for vine-wine, is held to amount to nothing. Cicero's rule holds good to-day, that everything should be disclosed, in order that a purchaser may be ignorant of nothing that the seller knows. But few people have leisure for investigating the real quality and quantity of their purchases. It is only necessary, remarks Mr. Emerson, to ask a few questions as to the progress of the articles of commerce from the fields where they grew to our houses, to become aware that we "eat and drink, and wear perjury and fraud in a hundred commodities." Christian critics have been fain to admire in Mohammed the vigour and emphasis with which he inculcated a noble sincerity and fairness in dealing. "He who sells a defective thing, concealing its defect, will provoke the anger of God and the curses of the angels." Every age has its recognised offenders of this sort, from Solomon's days downwards. It was reserved, apparently, for our own age to merit in full the bad eminence of attaining such a pitch of refinement "in the art of the falsification of elementary substances," that the very articles used to adulterate are themselves adulterated.
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