Measuring Up

“A just balance and scales are the Lord’s. All the weights in the bag are His work.” Proverbs 16:11


The author of this proverbial wisdom has considerable support for it in Torah:

“Use honest scales and measures…I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:36

“Do not have two differing weights in your bag…You must have accurate and honest…weights…so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 25:13,15.

Why are just balances and scales the Lord’s? What is the purpose of a just balance and scales?

First, God is the source of our most fundamental principles and the Giver of the means by which we measure and pursue our living true to them. For example, we should be righteous and loving as God is righteous and loving. And, we use the instruments that God has given us – our mind, heart, conscience, and soul – to weigh our decisions and live in these Divine ways.

Second, a balance and scales are, at least metaphorically, the means by which we conduct commerce with others. In the past, if one bought a commodity, a balance and scales might actually have been used for fairly weighing it with a known measure.

Today, we measure many things with modern devices, yet the principle remains the same. We must be fair and just with those with whom we have transactions. We are to be honest, and not to cheat.

Notice that the proverb addresses more than balances and scales. It also addresses the weights that are used. The words suggest that the balances and scales are God’s, as are the weights “in the bag” that assure accurate measurement on them.

Perhaps what this teaches more deeply is that God expects us to create a fair system of justice and that there must be means by which such a system is made to work justly.

Look at how the two verses from the Bible conclude. We use a just balance and scales in deference to God who redeemed us from Egypt. We were freed to create a system of justice. But it is only because of the maintenance of a just system through the ongoing use of honest weights that we are blessed with an enduring presence in the Promised Land.

Finally, the proverb may also teach that God measures us for being true to this Divine call, and does so by means of ethical weights calibrated – not by our being perfect – but rather by our good faith efforts to live in God’s ways. Our Lord takes it very seriously when instead of loving our neighbors as ourselves, we cheat them, thinking God will not notice or see our treachery as inconsequential. For, in the weighing, “God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.” Deuteronomy 25:16

We are to live honestly and justly with others. God sees all and – with righteousness, abundant kindness, and compassion – judges us accordingly.

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