Proverbs 11:1 (ESV)
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
but a just weight is his delight.
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.
What sins does this address? Greed – the reason the balance is false is so that the merchant who weighs what is being sold can make more money. How the money is earned is not the issue to him. The issue is money and plenty of it. His problem is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Greed and also dishonesty, lying, hypocrisy, lack of integrity, callous disregard for others and more come to mind. And it results in quietly putting a thumb on the scale when the meat is weighed. It seems like such a small thing. Only the Lord knows how many times we have been hornswoggled without knowing it. It is why there are security commissions and fraud squads and insider trading laws. It is why lottery tickets have to be signed ( a lovely piece of irony there – lottery corporations ask people to sign their tickets so merchants won’t cheat them while cheating people out of their money with false claims of getting rich – but I digress.)
Of course, merchants are not the only ones who can make a false balance. Any false impression we make to benefit ourselves is a false balance. The Pharisees lived life in a false balance. Pray long and pray loud. Travel the world to make disciples. Let everyone know how much you give to the poor. Deny yourself and let everyone know it. Look down on everybody who does not live life the way you do. The merchant does not tell his customers that he has rigged the balance to give him more money. “This balance is rigged but you have to pay according to what it registers, so you’re just out of luck.” Not at all. He wants them to believe that he is an honest salesman and that he is giving them a good deal and that they will come back again because he is so good and trustworthy and deserving of their business.
And we will not announce to one another that we wrestle with some pretty serious sins and that sometimes we lose. We will not reveal that our thumbs are on the scale from time to time. That would make the customers go away. The customers? Those we interact with on a daily basis. The people we want to like us. The people we think will shop elsewhere for friends if they could test the scales. The God we think will only be pleased with us if we perform really well.
This is not to say that we should be airing our dirty laundry for all to see all the time. What my personal struggles are, quite frankly, is none of your business, unless I sin against you. But you can be sure of this – I have some. And so do you. The false balance says that I don’t. The only way to get people to believe that I don’t is to rig the scales.
Verse 3 of Proverbs 11 says that the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. What a waste. Spend your life trying to get ahead by giving false impressions and have it ruin you. Haman’s noose (Esther 7:9-10).
Or know the freedom of sins forgiven, and the absolute liberation of coming clean with God and at least one other person who will help keep you accountable – and honest. How good God has been to give us such people. More evidence of great grace born out of great love and lavished on us with incredible generosity. Grace that gets our thumbs off the scales is great indeed.