June 25, 2014


“A just balance and scales belong to the LORD;
All the weights of the bag are His concern.” 
Proverbs 16.11

Picture yourself ambling around the town square, doing your weekly shopping at a medieval bazaar. You walk up to the grain vendor, dig out several scoops of grain, pour them into your sack, and set the sack on one side of the vendor’s scales. And he, for his part, opens his little bag of weights, and begins to put them on the other side of the scale … adding them one by one by one until the two sides are balanced. ‘Okay, Mrs. So-and-So. That’s 31 ounces of grain. So, let me see ... that comes to ... three schillings and a ha’-penny.’ All well and good, right? You fish the change out of your pockets, and head down the aisle to the fish stall. But then a few minutes later, you hear a ruckus being raised at the grain stand and, as you gather on the fringes of the gathering crowd to see what all the fuss is about, you see a very angry customer pulling out his own bag of weights, and weighing them against the grain vendors. And lo and behold, each ‘five ounce weight’ in the vendor’s bag actually weighs only a little over four ounces. And you’ve been cheated … not only on this market day, but on who knows how many other market days in weeks and months past.

That’s what Proverbs 16.11 is talking about – the integrity of weights and measures. God sees when the wheat vendor’s weights are intentionally fixed. He sees when the lady at the butcher shop leans her pinky finger on the back of the scale to add an ounce or two to the weight of every sale. “All the weights of the bag are His concern.” And that is good to know, isn’t it? God knows if we are being cheated. And He will someday settled accounts.

Or is that good news after all?

It’s only good news, it seems to me, if we are the ones being cheated. But what if we ourselves are the ones doing the fudging? ‘O, I would never do that’ someone says. Hopefully not. But do you give the clerk at UDF her dollar back when she accidentally gives you too much change? Do you smile knowingly when she gives you the wink-wink at charging you for a small when you really got a large? Do you think to yourself: ‘Well, they’re a big company after all. And so it’s no big deal if we recalibrate things just a bit. Nobody will miss the few extra cents. And certainly not when we’re dealing with the government. After all, they bring in billions of dollars. What’s the big deal if I fudge my expense reports a little bit to save a few tax dollars? And if my business books are a little cooked, who will really know?’

Well, the fact is that the government or the convenience store may, in fact, never know. And indeed, the cost of your dishonesty may be so small in their eyes that they wouldn’t do much about it if they did know. But God knows! And God cares about your integrity! “All the weights of the bag are His concern.” And we do well to remember that!

To illustrate this point, the 18th century preacher Lachlan Mackenzie repeated to his people the story of a woman who sold milk, but added water to what she sold until the product was diluted by one third. Well, she eventually went on an ocean voyage with her 'earnings'. And, as the story goes, a monkey that was being transported on the same vessel somehow got into her sleeping space, found her little sack of coins, climbed the rigging of the ship with the sack in hand, and began tossing the coins out of the bag – one into the sea, two onto the deck, one into the sea, two onto the deck – until a third of her earnings were buried in the ocean … exactly the amount she had exacted by her false measurements!*

God sees when we are falsely weighting things in our favor! And He has His ways of evening things out! So learn the lesson! Be a man or woman, a boy or girl, of absolute integrity. For “all the weights of the bag” are under the watchful eye of a just and holy God!

*This vignette from Mackenzie's ministry comes from John Kennedy's book The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire, as quoted by Iain Murray in The Happy Man: The Abiding Witness of Lachlan Mackenzie.  I have summarized, rather than fully quoting, Dr. Kennedy's account.

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