Jan 19, 2011

Dishonest Weights and Measures

In Proverbs, there are four verses that condemn dishonest weights and measures: 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 23. This is certainly a working out of the commandment to not bear false witness; it also falls under covetousness - the underlying heart condition that leads one to gain more profit from another. To be clear, I don't think these refer to a broken gauge (an accident), nor to the deli counter ringing up 1.07 pounds of sliced salami as just one pound (generosity), but one that is wrong in the owner's favor by design. Let's look in more detail at how honest and dishonest weights and measures are described.

Attributed to honest weights and measures:
  • Described as "just"
  • The work of God
  • A delight to God
Attributed to false weights and measures:
  • Not good
  • An abomination to the Lord (three times)
I was surprised by the last attribute of honest weights & measures, but I shouldn't be. God is pleased when we honor Him with obedience, and so He is pleased when we are careful to measure correctly in our work. This goes along with the description of "just" as we serve a God of justice. Indeed that concept is also fleshed out regularly in Proverbs.

As for false weights and measures, they are considered an abomination - a very strong rebuke against using them before God. The word abomination is also used to describe the sins of the people that were slaughtered by Israel in Canaan. Clearly God hates this injustice.

How does this apply to the technologist? Certainly it still applies (as it did in the writer's day) to buying and selling goods. Today, it applies in using careful, consistent measurement in manufacturing and packaging. "Fudging numbers" sounds a lot less bad than "an abomination," but we must understand that the latter is the reality.

I would say the passages also require honesty and justice in determining which measures to use. We can pick measures that make our idea or product look better, or measures that reflect reality much better. That measurement may be of some arcane mechanical system or of student learning in an educational system.

What other implications do you see of these passages?

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