God condemns fraudulent weights and measures twice in the Torah, and twice in the book of Proverbs. Three of those times, God declares that such weights and measures are an “abomination” (Hebrew to‘ebah), that is, they turn God’s stomach, putting them in league with idolatry (Deut 7:25, also 27:15), burning one’s children in sacrifice (Deut 12:31, also 18:10), offering blemished sacrifices to God (Deut 17:1), witchcraft (Deut 18:10–11), the wages of a female or male prostitute (Deut 23:19), and an official who justifies the wicked or condemns the righteous (Prov 17:15).
Deuteronomy 25: 13-16 says, “You shall not have in your bag two sets of weights (literally “a stone and a stone”), a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two sets of dry measures (the ephah or bushel measure), a large and a small. (Only) a full and honest (shelemah wa-tzedeq) weight you shall have; (only) a full and honest ephah you shall have…For all who do such things, all who act with wickedness (‘awel), are an abomination to YHWH your God.”
Leviticus 19:35-36 says, “You shall not do wickedness in judgment, in dry measure, in weight, or in liquid measure. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin (liquid measure).”
Proverbs 20:10 “Two sets of weights, and two sets of bushels, are both alike an abomination to YHWH.” Likewise, Proverbs 20:23 states, “Two sets of weights are an abomination to YHWH, and scales of deceit (mirmah) are not good.”
In a low-tech age, it was easy to conceal and hard to detect the difference between a full 11-gram shekel and a 10-gram shekel, or a 40-liter ephah and a 39.6-liter ephah. Today, technology has made such crude methods of theft almost obsolete, although we still hear of companies who “cook the books” or who keep two sets of safety records (one for OSHA and one for their own private use).
I propose that government accounting is a far more grievous form of double-dealing. Routinely, politicians tell us about supposed budget cuts they have made or proposed. The truth is that almost never is spending actually rolled back. Budget increases are automatic, and are written into the fiction of what is called a “cut.”
If government spending were to be frozen today, it would be reported as a $9 trillion “cut” over 10 years, even though spending would remain the same. When it was proposed back in the 1990s that increases in spending be slowed from 7 percent to 3 percent (I don’t remember the exact figures), the move was successfully vilified as a draconian “cut” designed to put Grandma on dog food.
Such duplicitous measuring techniques turn God’s stomach. And they have put the public into hock for trillions of dollars by convincing us that “cuts” are being made, when nothing that could be honestly defined as a “cut” has been made.
I can respect those who lobby for increased government spending in the name of “justice.” That’s another debate. But I cannot respect those who purposely deceive the public in the name of so-called “justice.” If I read God’s word correctly, the God of justice who inspired the Torah finds such practices equally abhorrent.
TOM HOBSON of Belleville, Ill., a PC(USA) pastor for 28 years, is currently serving at First Church in Herrin, Ill and as adjunct professor at Morthland College, West Frankfort, Ill.