Intro: One of the most challenging tasks that God places before us is to hold ourselves as accountable as God does. It is easy for us to lower God’s standard of expectation. Satan’s continual ploy has been to get men and women to believe that God does not really care if you obey all that he commands, or that His commands do not involve all of your life.
Our question for today is this: Does God have any interest in the secular part of your life? We are pretty good at recognizing our responsibility toward God in the religious part; praying, assemblies, activities of corporate worship, even church activities. But what about the other stuff, the everyday, business activities of life? When Christians have everyday dealings with the people of the world.
- Does God care if I am a righteous or just person in that part of my life?
- Does it matter to God how you do things at work, how you pay your taxes or engage in business?
- Does God have an interest in the manner in which non-Christians do business in the secular world?
Note: The promise of God we are studying this month is God’s promise of justice. In our study of that promise we considered the commands against personal vengeance, and God’s call for positive mercy toward our enemies in Romans 12. But God’s concern for justice goes further. He is a just God, and delights in justice in all things. So we will consider these questions in light of the character of God.
Proverbs 11:1 – Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. What does this text teach us? What is the picture of this proverb?
I. Dishonest Scales: How can a scale be dishonest?
- Suppose you were a merchant in the Old Testament times and you sold corn meal for the fair price of 10 cents per pound. A customer comes and asks for five pounds. You reach for your five pound stone and place it in the dish on one side of the scales. Then you take your big bag of meal and start pouring it into the dish on the other side of the scale. You pour until the two dishes cause the scale to balance out. Then you pour the dish full of meal into your customer’s container, and he knows that he has been given the right amount of grain. The size of a five pound stone is fairly common knowledge. But then suppose that during the night you took a very sharp, hard blade and dug a small hole in the side of the stone and worked it around hollowing out the inside until it weighed only four pounds. Then you covered the little hole over with clay the same color as the stone and let it dry. The next day you don’t use it on the educated and strong because they might make a fuss over the apparently smaller pile of meal and might even examine the stone. But when the child comes on behalf of his mother, and when the widow who is partially blind comes to buy meal, you use your deceitful stone. Our text says that this is an abomination to the Lord. We would say you are a dishonest man.
A. What is Honesty?
1. Definition: Webster defines honest as anyone “Characterized by or exhibiting truthfulness and integrity; incorruptible: not deceptive or fraudulent; marked by integrity or truth; fair or just in character and behavior, not cheating or stealing.”
a. In the OT the first appearance of the word honest is in Gen. 42, where Joseph’s brothers are denying the charge that they are spies by describing themselves as honest men. (Ironically, their dishonesty and deceit was the most noticeable characteristic of their lives.)
b. Another Hebrew word is used in Lev 19:36 – You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: The law was clear – God’s people were not to cheat others. God did care about their business dealings, even with unbelievers.
c. In the N.T. the two words that are translated as honest are “kalos” which is also translated as good or equitable. In Luke 8:15 this word is used by Jesus to describe both the land that brings forth fruit, and the heart that accepts the truth (good and honest). It is also translated as honorable and admirable. In 2 Cor 8:21 Paul tells us we must provide “honorable” things in the sight of God and men.
d. The basic component of honesty is truth. An honest person always tells the truth, but also acts according to the truth. The honest person comprehends what is right and wrong, and understands the objective nature of truth. He strives to do the “right” thing based on God’s word. 1 Peter 2:12 – 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
2. Actions: There are so many ways for dishonesty and injustice to be displayed. Almost every activity between people calls for some degree of honesty. What are some activities that define honesty:
a. business (commerce). As we mentioned, God demanded that the Israelites have honest scales, and treat others honestly as they sold and bought. God demands this of us as well.
b. What would be think of a gasoline pump that reads a penny more a gallon than it should? We expect the scales to be honest, and they are simply a reflection of the heart of the men who manage them.
c. A realtor who fails to reveal a flood problem with a piece of property. But this is not just a characteristic of the seller; Prov 20:14 – “It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts. Have you ever bragged about the great deal you got because you acted like the product was worth nothing. “Though merely stated as a fact, the verse implies that this action is wrong and that a person who sells products needs to be on guard against dishonest bargain hunters. (from Bible Knowledge Commentary)
3. speech: Proverbs 12:22 – 22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight. Lying is so pervasive in our world that many see it as standard operating procedure. We lie on insurance form, tax forms, employment resumes, etc.
B. How are the scales of your life? These are activities of deceit and injustice, and God’s law has been emphatic about the sinfulness of dishonest scales. Charles Bridges, an evangelical pastor in the Church of England a century ago, asks this searching question: “Is it not a solemn thought, that the eye of God marks all our common dealings of life, either as an abomination or a delight?” Test yourself. Are you being shaped more by the secular spirit of the world or by the spirit of God? The test is this: do you feel that minor business misrepresentations are just part of the game rules of the day or are they an abomination to God?
II. Why should you use honest scales? It is obvious what God demands. But why does He care, particularly among unbelievers? Return to Lev. 19 – The law of God expressed to Israel: Leviticus 19:35-37 – 35 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. 36 You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 ‘Therefore you shall observe all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the Lord.'” How is God motivating honesty and justice here? Three Observations
A. I am the Lord… He uses his personal name that he used with Moses just before he brought the people out of Egypt. And you remember he explained the meaning of that name by saying, “I am who I am.” The name implies absoluteness and independence and freedom and sovereignty. You should do this because of who I AM.
B. Your God… In other words, I am for you. I am on your side. God often encouraged the patriarchs by using these words. I am on your side.
C.“I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Here is the proof that I am who I say I am, and that I am on your side. For Christians today the death and resurrection of Jesus—the second Exodus—has surpassed the first in value. It is proof and motive all in one.
D. What is the point? If you really know that God is the LORD—Yahweh, the absolute, independent, free and sovereign God of the universe; and if you trust him as YOUR GOD—that he is for you with all his power; and if your faith is established and encouraged by the great demonstration of God’s love and concern in Jesus death and resurrection; then you will not need to fudge on your tax returns in order to make sure that you get the most happiness. You will believe that your omnipotent God has committed himself in your behalf. He will provide what is right. When a Christian acts with integrity instead of trying to get ahead with deceit, he demonstrates the power and love of the God, and is walking by faith, not sight.
1. Proverbs 20:17 says, Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel. In other words there is no true gain or peace in dishonesty or deceit. It seems to be a solution, and men may rejoice in it for a while, but in the end it leaves a bitter taste, and does not satisfy. Jer 17:11“As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool.”
III. We must fight the temptation to be dishonest: We must strive to be honest in all ways. The battle for honesty lasts a lifetime. God emphatically warns the Christian to guard his heart and to keep it pure. “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). God has plainly told us: “He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence” (Psalm 101:7).
A. Honesty through the Truth: The most powerful weapon we have to fight against dishonesty is the word of God. God’s truth is just that, it is truth. We must use it to guide our lives and our decisions. God has not lied to us. We must honor the truth He revealed, and accept it above all other words.
B. Honesty with the Truth: But honestly also requires that we receive the truth personally, and allow it to change us. The nature of man has not changed. Without continual exposure to the word of God, men’s hearts will be pulled back to self-justification and blindness. Why do men prefer dishonesty? Psychologists suggest that men tend to make up the reasons for their behaviors after they do them, and that their “reasons” and behavior usually have nothing to do with each other.
1. Are you honest with the Truth of God? God’s forgiveness allows us to be honest. God sees me as I am, and, in spite of that, He loves me and seeks my best. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). God sees the darkness of my sin and has provided a sacrifice that will wash away my sins and restore my relationship with Him (Rom 3:23; 6:23).
2. What do I need to do? I need to be honest! I must see my own sin and make no excuses. The love of God must move me to change my heart in repentance that will result in a changed life. As I look carefully into God’s truth, and honestly accept it for what it teaches, I will desire to be baptized in water for the forgiveness of MY sins. Romans 6:3-5 – 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, NKJV
3. As I live the life God has directed, honesty demands that I face up to my failures, and seek restoration and fellowship through faith in Christ, and not an illusion of perfect law-keeping. As I serve Him I will come to love the truth, to love bold and honest preaching because it allows me to see what God already sees and what I need to know. Most of all, I am thankful that God’s word is able to penetrate my heart when it drifts into dishonesty and point me back to Him. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13).
4. Be honest. Are you genuinely serving the Lord with all of your heart (? “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pr. 28:13).