Proverbs 20:23

Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.

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God cares about business practices. The Bible commands honest weights and measures. Wisdom includes honesty and integrity in financial and professional dealings. Truth and righteousness demand that you treat every transaction accurately and carefully. If you want God’s blessings and to avoid His judgment, then consider this proverb’s warning.

Which is closer to a pound, fifteen ounces or seventeen ounces? It depends whether you are buying or selling! It would be better to buy a pound and get fifteen ounces than cheat a seller. It would be better to sell a pound and give seventeen ounces than cheat a buyer. The LORD – Jehovah of the Bible – demands scrupulous honesty in business dealings. He abhors and loathes false financial practices, and He will punish such men or nations.

Fools say the Bible is not relevant to modern society. King Solomon, 3000 years ago, taught the value of just weights and measures for an efficient and prosperous economy. Men and nations have flourished with honor and wealth when or where this proverb was obeyed, just as promised (Pr 4:7-9; 8:12-21; 22:4; Ps 144:11-15). Proverbs 20:23 is as relevant as the Departments of Weights and Measures in the world’s prosperous nations.

Moses required honest weights and measures 3500 years ago, and he promised the world would envy Israel for their wise and righteous laws (Lev 19:35-36; Deut 4:5-8; 25:13-16). God called unfair business practices an abomination, so Solomon repeated this economic rule often (Pr 11:1; 16:11; 20:10). When Israel violated the proverb, God sent prophets to warn them of coming judgment (Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5-6; Micah 6:10-11).

Consider the proverb’s words. “Divers” means different weights for cheating customers with a balance scale. Such business practices are an abomination to God – He abhors, hates, and loathes them. A “false balance” was a rigged balance scale to cheat customers while using correct weights. “Is not good” is the figure of speech called meiosis, which is a deliberate understatement, for the proverb’s parallelism defines it as an abomination!

Imagine for a moment trying to buy and sell apples or diamonds, olive oil or motor oil, or even croutons or construction materials without a system of weights and measures. Chaos would quickly rule the marketplace, if there were no standards for weights and measures. Confidence in purchasing and using materials is based on these standards, and this confidence turns creative and productive genius and power loose to produce and prosper.

The U.S. has the greatest economy in the world. Its Constitution gave responsibility to “fix the standard of weights and measures” to the federal government. In 1836, Congress established what is called the National Institute of Standards and Technology (N.I.S.T.) as part of the Commerce Department. By their defining and enforcing of standards, the consistency in the national economy now propels America’s role in the global economy.

But give credit where credit is due! Moses laid down this important law 3500 years ago. Solomon restated it 3000 years ago. Both did so by the inspiration of God for the benefit of God’s chosen nation. Though men and nations may mock the Bible, the degree of prosperity they enjoy is to the degree they follow it. Third-world nations either neglect or reject this proverb’s wisdom to their own poverty. Let God be true, but every man a liar!

There are subtler ways people can cheat. Solomon wrote, “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth” (Pr 20:14). While this man might use a fair balance and only one set of weights, he cheats a seller by making excessive criticisms about the quality of an item. He is lying, because as soon as he buys the item for a lesser price, he boasts to friends about the “steal” he got from the seller!

What is the lesson, beyond appreciating the Bible’s inspired wisdom? Learning God’s opinion of cheating in business! If God considers financial cheating an abomination, then you must never cheat buyers or sellers, even if it means giving more than they purchased and paying for more than you received. If you think such scrupulous conduct will steal your profits, you have missed the lesson and do not know the God of heaven. He can easily make up for any such righteous squeezing of profit margins (Pr 11:18,24-27; 28:8).