March 11th, 2018
“Love Never Steals”
Aux Text: Luke 6:37-38
Call to Worship: Psalm 1
Service Orientation: We cheat others, the world and ourselves when we defraud someone because of our lack of integrity. Be sure: Your sin will find you out.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. —Luke 6:38
- With no bureau of weights and measures in the ancient world, people could cheat each other by using dishonest weights and unequal measurements. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 237)
- Verses 13-16, without any ambiguity, set out to protect society. Again, all societies today insist on a fixed standard of weights and measures, and have inspectors to uphold such laws. Fixed standards were much more difficult to define in the ancient world, so that deliberate cheating was all too easy. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 140)
- Israel’s God loved honesty and hated deception. In the ancient Near East the king was especially responsible to see that the weights used in business or personal transactions were fair and that everyone used the same set of weights. Unfortunately a uniform universal system of weights was not adopted in ancient times, but whatever system was used to begin a transaction had to be used to complete it. (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 504)
- The significance of the problem of cheating in business deals throughout the ancient Near East is reflected in the wide range of materials that allude to it. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 585-6)
The questions to be answered are . . . What is the big deal about having two different weights in your bag or different measures in your house? What does God care?
Answer: Weights and measures were the standard for every business transaction in the ancient near east. To have different weights or measures meant you intended to use them at selected times to cheat and take advantage of others. God detests this kind of activity.
The Word for the Day is . . . Integrity
Integrity, the saying goes, begins with “I.” It starts with the day-in, day-out ways in which you and I interact with customers and employees, with patients and clients, with bosses and boards of directors. In noting the common root of the words integrity and integer (or whole number), author Warren Wiersbe observes, “A person with integrity is not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). He or she is ‘whole’; life is ‘put together.’ and things are working together harmoniously. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.” (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 45)
If you have integrity, nothing else matters. It you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. — Alan Simpson
What is the big deal about Weights?:
I- To possess two differing weights means you intended to cheat. (Dt 25:13; see also: Lv 19:35-37; Prv 11:1; 20:10, 23; Ezek 45:10-12; Hosea 12:7-8; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-12)
This text warns against having two different sets of weights, the lighter one to be used when calculating payment one owes, and the heavier to calculate commodities or money one was owed. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 586)
Prophets in Israel and Judah cried out loudly against merchants in the marketplace who dealt falsely with weights and measures (Amos 8:5; Hos 12:8; Mic 6:11). Deceitful measuring of grain could also take place in the house (Mic 6:10). In the book of Proverbs, says Hallo (1985-86, 36), the most frequent condemnation of dishonesty is in matters of weights and measures (Prv 11:1; 20:10, 23). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 715)
Make sure there is a whole lot more behind the counter than what you put out for display. — Chuck Swindoll
II- To possess two differing measures means the same. (Dt 25:14; see also: Lv 19:35-37; Prv 11:1; 20:10, 23; Ezek 45:10-12; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-12; 1 Tim 3:8; Tit 1:7)
Although the NT never refers specifically to cheating with false measurements, Paul’s use of expressions like “dishonest gain” (1 Tm 3:8; Ti 1:7 in his list of disqualifications from leadership positions probably includes cheating. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 588)
In the end, the white lie will get you. As John Ruskin says, we lie in so many ways:
The essence of lying is in deception, not in words. A lie may be told by silence, by equivocation, by the accent on a syllable, by a glance of the eye attaching a peculiar significance to a sentence. All these kinds of lies are worse and baser by many degrees than a lie plainly worded. No form of blinded conscience is so far sunk as that which comforts itself for having deceived because the deception was by gesture or silence instead of utterance. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 312)
The use of false weights was apparently a widespread abuse in trading in the biblical world. Parallel laws and instructions can be found, for example, in Lv 19:35-37, and the Instruction of Amenemope 16 (ANET 423). The prophets condemned the practice (Amos 8:5; Mic 6:10-12). Larger and smaller weights were false by reference to an accepted standard. The ephah was a measure used for weighing out grain. The traders in Amos 8:5 want to make the ephah small when selling grain, and the shekel large, being a measure of the weight of the silver in which they will be paid. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 372)
Even true statements can be employed to deceive others — as a ship’s first mate so well understood. It seems that the first mate had been derelict in his duties and had been disciplined by the ship’s captain. But a few days later he got his revenge when the captain became ill, and the first mate assumed running the ship—and the keeping of the ship’s log. His opening entry that day began, “Captain sober today . . . “ Perfectly true — and a perfect deception in what it implied.
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does God care?:
A- The vulnerable are the most likely to be taken advantage of by cheaters. (Dt 25:13; see also: Ps 35:10; Isa 1:23; Ezek 18:12-16; Hosea 12:7-8; Amos 8:5)
Crookedness of this sort is just what contributes to the oppression of the poor and vulnerable, as the prophetic texts show. They may, in addition, have difficulty in obtaining justice from a court. The word “just,” used here of the measure itself to mean “correct” (as in Lv 19:36), is the word that typically means “just” in an ethical sense, for example in Dt 16:20. There is an appeal here for obedience, recognizing that this activity may be hard for the courts to deal with, and it is backed up with a promise of long life in the land (cf. 5:16). There is negative motivation too; unethical behavior of this sort is condemned as abhorrent to Yahweh with the same word that is used for things that are ritually abhorrent (see on 7:25-26). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 372)
Being truthful when you know it will cost you is the true test of honesty.
These theological sanctions remind us of the OT’s scale of values, in which the same strong word (“abomination to Yahweh”–insulting to his character) could be used as much about commercial malpractice as about idolatry, sexual perversions, and pagan cults. The reason is that it is precisely such cheating and sharp dealing in the world of trade and commerce that lies behind so much of the exploitation and poverty of those whom Deuteronomy cares so passionately about elsewhere. The same zeal to expose dishonesty because of its social destructiveness inflamed Amos (Amos 8:4-6). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 267)
To do its worst, evil needs to look its best. Evil has to spend a lot on makeup. Hypocrites have to spend time polishing their act and polishing their image. “Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.” Vices have to masquerade as virtues–lust as love, thinly veiled sadism as military discipline, envy as righteous indignation, domestic tyranny as parental concern. And this is so whether the masquerade takes the form of putting on an act or making up a cover story. Either way, deceivers learn how to present something falsely, and they exert themselves to make the presentation credible. Even Satan, who looks heroic to rebels, must masquerade “as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) in order to look merely plausible. This infernal embarrassment (Satan must appeal to our God-given appetite for goodness in order to win his way) suggests a significant feature of evil: to prevail, evil must leech not only power and intelligence from goodness but also its credibility. From counterfeit money to phone airliner parts to the trustworthy look on the face of a con artist, evil appears in disguise. Hence its treacherousness. Hence the need for the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment. Hence the sheer difficulty, at times, of distinguishing what is good from what is evil. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 98)
The great enemy of the Word of God is anything outside the Word of God…the word of Satan, the word of demons, the word of man. And we are living in very dangerous seasons concocted by seducing spirits and hypocritical liars propagated by false teachers. And here’s what makes them successful…look at verses 3 and 4 (2 Tm 4:3-4). “The time will come, and it does, it cycles through all of church history, when they will not endure sound doctrine.” People don’t want to hear sound doctrine. “Sound” means healthy, whole, wholesome. They don’t want wholesome teaching. They don’t want the sound, solid Word. They just want to have their ears tickled. That’s all they want. They’re driven by the sensual, not the cognitive. They’re not interested in truth. They’re not interested in theology. All they want is ear-tickling sensations. That’s what they want. They refuse to hear the great truth that saves and the great truth that sanctifies. And according to chapter 2 verse 16, they would rather hear worldly empty chatter that produces ungodliness and spreads like gangrene. (John MacArthur, www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-180_5-Reasons-to-Preach-the-Word, 6)
It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt. Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived! For all that we think we know, we must know this as well: we can be wrong. If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors? (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 30)
B- God is a God of truth and detests those who cheat to get ahead. (Dt 25:16; see also: Ps 31:5; Prv 10:9; 11:3; 13:6; 20:23; Isa 61:8; Ezek 18:12-16; Micah 6:10-12; Zep 1:11; Zech 5:3-4; Jn 1:14, 17; 14:6; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Tm 3:8; Ti 1:7)
With keen pastoral sense, in verses 15b-16 Moses tries to motivate integrity in business, first by promising long life in the land that Yahweh is giving the Israelites as a reward for honesty, and then by warning that all who commit crimes involving unjust weights and measures are abominable to Yahweh (cf. 18:12; 22:5). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 586)
Under the new covenant, we would interpret the lengthening of days in the land as the blessing of God upon our lives. This is the stark reality: God will not bless those who are dishonest. But there is something even more serious: dishonest people “are an abomination to the LORD.” That is, they bear his name, but their actions “are insulting to his character.” What a serious thing that is: they insult God! The implication is that they are headed for God’s judgment. Having grappled with the question of dishonesty in our land, even among Christians, for a long time, I have concluded that one of the greatest deterrents to dishonesty is the prospect of judgment by the holy, awesome, and almighty God. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 562)
The customer was at the mercy of the vendor who could easily use heavy weights for buying and small ones for selling. Royal standards for these weights were fixed during the reign of David (2 Sm 14:26). The Israelites were to be totally honest in their business dealings. They could not afford to be otherwise, since it was ultimately the Lord who would withhold or give prosperity. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 263)
C- When we cheat to get ahead we demonstrate we have no faith in God and are thus headed for judgment and condemnation. (Dt 25:13; see also: Jn 3:16-18; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:31; Rom 5:8-18; Heb chps 7-10)
“Faith that does not act is a faith that is just an act.” (Lois Evans and Jane Rubietta, Stones of Remembrance)
Human beings can honestly profess to believe what they do not believe. They may do this for so long that even they no longer know that they do not believe what they profess. But their actions will, of course, be in terms of what they actually believe. This will be so even though they do not recognize it, and they will lose themselves in bewilderment about the weakness of their “faith.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 308)
When we fail to trust God it is because we have transferred to Him our corrupt qualities. (RC Sproul; “The Just Shall Live” from Romans 1:16-17)
Lukewarm living and claiming Christ’s name simultaneously is utterly disgusting to God. And when we are honest, we have to admit that it isn’t very fulfilling or joyful to us, either. But the solution isn’t to try harder, fail, and then make bigger promises, only to fail again. It does no good to muster up more love for God, to will yourself to love Him more. When loving Him becomes obligation, one of many things we have to do, we end up focusing more on ourselves. No wonder so few people want to hear from us about what we ourselves feel is a boring, guilt-ridden chore! (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 103)
Worship Point: Worship the God Who wants us to live in the best possible world, one in which no one ever cheats. God blesses those with integrity. (Dt 25:15; see also: Prv 10:9; 11:1; 13:6; 28:16)
If we set our desires on anything other than the true God, we will become like that thing. Desire that is focused on the right object–the one true God–enables and grows a human being. Desire set on the wrong thing corrupts and debases us.
If we worship money, in other words, we’ll become a greedy person.
If we worship sex, we’ll become a lustful person.
If we worship power, we’ll become a corrupt person.
If we worship accomplishment, we’ll become a restless, frantic person.
If we worship love and acceptance, we’ll become a slave to others.
If we worship external beauty, we’ll become shallow.
And worshiping anything other than the true God will make us something other than what he created us to be. (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 158)
The devil is the great deceiver, and the aim of all his deception, as with temptation, is that we desire anything–even good, safe, wholesome things–above God. He offers a thousand substitutes and threatens us with a thousand miseries in this world. When we pray for deliverance from him, we mean: Never let us be attracted by the substitutes, and never let us infer from our miseries that God is not our all-satisfying Friend. (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 147-8)
Trading in right weights and measures, like other actions in obedience to the covenant, will give Israel long life in the land. Prv 28:16 says: “But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.” (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 715)
The editor of a small-town newspaper wrote, “Family values are important,…but people want to hear about the economy right now.”
It was a nice way of saying what other commentators say a lot less nicely. The major media sneers at the values issue, calling it a smoke screen to take people’s mind off the “real” problem: namely the economy.
Okay, let’s talk about the economy. What are the factors that make for a thriving economy? Well, for starters people have to be willing to work hard; that’s motivation and self-sacrifice. They have to be willing to honor contracts; that’s honesty and fidelity. They have to invest time and effort in projects that pay off only in the future; that’s self-discipline and delayed gratification. People have to cooperate with coworkers; that’s kindness and respect. Lawmakers have to pass bills for industry that are fair and consistent; that’s integrity.
The conclusion is obvious. The marketplace depends on people holding high ethical standards. Values aren’t peripheral to the economy. They are its very basis. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 309)
Gospel Application: Jesus was not only an innocent victim of dishonesty, but Jesus graciously paid our debt for being a dishonest criminal (Isa 53:6, 9; Rom 1:17; 3:21; 2 Cor 5:21). He did this for love. He did this for you and for me. The measure of grace you offer to others is the measure God will use for you. (Mt 7:2; Mk 4:24; Lk 6:38; Jam 2:13)
In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”? We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven. (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)
I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy: perfection or honesty. Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative. Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance. As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal. Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace. When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)
“Two thousand years ago Messiah became an outcast, a pariah, a man of suffering. Since that time, what has happened to the Jewish people? They became an outcast nation, a pariah nation, and a people of suffering. Messiah was falsely accused, mocked, vilified, abused, and dehumanized. In the same way, for two thousand years, the Jewish people have been falsely accused, mocked, vilified, abused, and dehumanized. Messiah was forcibly apprehended, robbed of his dignity, wounded, and condemned to death. So too the Jewish people have over and over again been forcibly apprehended, robbed of their dignity, wounded, and condemned to death. Messiah was led as a lamb to His death, stripped naked, and executed. So too His people have, through the ages, been led as lambs to their deaths, stripped naked, and executed. You see, Messiah remains the King of Israel. . . and, in one way or another, a people will follow their king. And so for two thousand years, the Jewish people have followed in the footsteps of their King and, in that time, have borne His image.”
“But after his death,” I said, “He was resurrected.”
“And so the children of Israel were also crucified in the Holocaust. But after it was over, the nation of Israel was resurrected, the only nation on earth to have undergone such a resurrection from life to death. It is no accident that it was resurrected. For so too was its King. And if His nation, without intending to, still follows Him and still bears His image, how much more must we. How much more must you walk in His footsteps and follow in His ways. How much more must you be conformed to and bear His image to this world. They have done so without knowing. How much more must you in your knowing. . . For a nation must follow its king.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 185)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, with all the concern, compassion and love which he showed to mankind, made some very vivid portrayals of man’s condition. He did not mince words about the gravity of human sin. He talked of man as salt that has lost its savor (Mt 5:13). He talked of man as a corrupt tree which is bound to produce corrupt fruit (Mt 7:7). He talked of man as being evil: “You, being evil, know how to give good things to your children” (Lk 11:13). On one occasion he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and talked about an “evil and adulterous generation” (v. 45). In a great passage dealing with what constitutes true impurity and true purity he made the startling statement that out of the heart proceed murders, adulteries, evil thoughts and things of that kind (Mk 7:21-23). He spoke about Moses having to give special permissive commandments to men because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt 19:8). When the rich young ruler approached him, saying, “Good Master,” Jesus said, “there is none good but God” (Mk 10:18)…
Jesus compared men, even the leaders of his country, to wicked servants in a vineyard (Mt 21:33-41). He exploded in condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, who were considered to be among the best men, men who were in the upper ranges of virtue and in the upper classes of society (Mt 23:2-39).
The Lord Jesus made a fundamental statement about man’s depravity in Jn 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” He saw in man an unwillingness to respond to grace–“You will not come to God” (Jn 5:40), “You have not the love of God” (v. 42), “You receive me not” (v. 43), “You believe not” (v. 47). Such sayings occur repeatedly in the Gospel of John. “The world’s works are evil” (Jn 7:7); “None of you keeps the law” (v. 19). “You shall die in your sins,” he says (Jn 8:21). “You are from beneath” (v. 23); “Your father is the devil, who is a murderer and a liar” (vv. 38, 44); “You are not of God” (v. 47); “You are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:26); “He that hates me hates my Father” (Jn 15:23-25). This is the way in which our Lord spoke to the leaders of the Jews. He brought to the fore their utter inability to please God.
Following another line of approach he showed also the blindness of man, that is, his utter inability to know God and understand him. Here again we have a whole series of passages showing that no man knows the Father but him to whom the Son has revealed him (Mt 11:27). He compared men to the blind leading the blind (Mt 15:14). He mentioned that Jerusalem itself did not know or understand the purpose of God and, as a result, disregarded the things that concern salvation (Lk 19:42). The Gospel of John records him as saying that he that believed not was condemned already because he had not believed on the Son of God (Jn 3:18). “This is the condemnation, that…men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (v. 19). He said that only the one who has been reached by grace can walk not in darkness but have the light of life (Jn 8:12). The Lord Jesus emphasized that it is essential for man to be saved by a mighty act of God if he is to be rescued from his condition of misery (Jn 3:3, 5, 7-16). Even in the Lord’s Prayer the Lord teaches us to say, “Forgive us our debts” (Mt 6:12). And this is a prayer that we need to repeat again and again. He said, “The sick are the people who need a physician” (Mt 9;12). We are those sick people who need a physician to help us and redeem us. He said that we are people who are burdened and heavy-laden (Mt 11:28). . .The people who were most readily received by the Lord were those who had this sense of need and who therefore did not come to him with a sense of the sufficiency of their performance. The people he received were those who came broken-hearted and bruised with the sense of their inadequacy. (Roger R. Nicole, “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching”)
Spiritual Challenge: Live a life of integrity, honesty, and candor. Live a life that reflects that your citizenship and values are in heaven and not on earth desiring for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Prv 13:11; 16:11; Jer 5:1; Ezek 45:10-12; Mt 7:12; 1 Cor 13:6)
Abraham Lincoln, whom many regard as the greatest American President, was known as “Honest Abe” because of his commitment to honesty. He had a motto: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light I have.” When success becomes more important than our principles, we succumb to the temptation of dishonesty. As a young man Lincoln served as a store clerk, and at the end of the day a woman came in and bought half a pound of sugar. It was the last sale for the day. The next morning when he came to the shop he found that there was a four-ounce weight on the scales, which meant that he had given the woman only four ounces of sugar the day before. He promptly weighted out the balance that he had not given, closed the shop, and took the sugar to the woman’s home. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 561)
Business corruption is more than a private concern. Dishonesty in one business spreads rapidly to other spheres and eats at the foundation of society itself. Honesty is the keystone to character. “Honest Abe” Lincoln valued his sobriquet as a testimony to his essential integrity as a man. Jesus emphasized utter sincerity as the hallmark of Christian character. “Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one” (Mt 5:37 ASV). (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 482)
Honesty in all our business dealings is an essential feature of our walk with God and is a requirement for a right relationship with him. We sometimes meet people in the business world who testify to God’s goodness in life while continuing unethical business practices. This is a contradiction and, as we shall see, a huge insult to God. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 561)
In verses 13-16 Moses has appealed to the community of faith to be exemplary in their business dealings. A more relevant issue in the entire book than the call for integrity in all economic transactions can scarcely be imagined. Honest and fair calculation of transactions and scrupulous payment of debts should be the hallmark of those who claim to be God’s people. The problem exists not only at the highest levels, as in the outrageous thievery of Bernie Madoff, who bilked trusting investors of billions of dollars, but at the local checkout counter of the grocery store, where we may be tempted to overlook a miscalculation by the clerk in our favor, and in our offices as we fill out our tax forms. Of course the principle does not apply only to mercantile and financial matters; it also applies to the exchange of ideas (e.g., plagiarism). In a society that seems to become more unethical by the day, Christians should stand out for the fidelity and integrity with which they conduct their business. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 590-1)
Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes. Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail. “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)
Another significant antidote to hypocrisy (in addition to integrity and purity) is transparency. On one level, hypocrisy is failing to acknowledge the inconsistencies in our life. It is denial. It is, as the Bible describes it, trying to remove a speck from someone else’s eye when you have a log in your own. Living with integrity starts with being transparent. (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 54-5)
So What?: God is a God of reciprocity. He knows the world cannot function properly without integrity, honesty, and truth. Most of our current sociological, economical, political, ecological, religious, and spiritual issues have as their cause a lack of integrity, honesty, and truth (Amos 8:4-6). Therefore God promotes and blesses integrity and honesty. (Prv 10:9; 11:1; 13:6; 28:16; Mt 7:2; Mk 4:24; Lk 6:38; Jam 2:13)
We’ve come a long way from the ancient world, where a merchant could defraud his customers by carrying two stones in his bag, a lighter stone for buying his goods and a heavier one for selling them. Unfortunately, sinful human beings have usually used their increasingly sophisticated technology only to devise more clever ways to swindle each other. Education alone isn’t the answer; Theodore Roosevelt once remarked, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” We can live changed lives only after we receive changed hearts from the Holy Spirit. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 238)
Fair trade is one of the essential hallmarks of any human society seeking to protect everybody’s interests in a civilized way. In this OT form of covenant sanctions of Israel’s own specific constitution are significantly brought to bear. There is, on the one hand, the positive promise that commitment to honesty in trade will bring the covenant blessing of long life in the land (v. 15); and, on the other hand, there is the negative warning that dishonesty stands under the covenant curse as something “detestable” (an abomination) to Yahweh (v. 16). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 267)
Supermarkets and general human transactions operated based on trust. Millions of dollars being spent on surveillance and other instruments to prevent dishonesty shows that such trust is eroding. So does the fact that contracts are getting more and more complex to ensure that there will not be a breaking of trust. The idea of a “gentlemen’s agreement” is fast becoming outdated. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 562)
Washington Post columnist Judy Mann wrote that the homeless children dying in Third World countries are the result of the church’s “unthinking pro-family polices.” Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Gyer warned darkly that church teachings could “lead to the death of us all.”
The premise here is that the more children a nation has, the poorer it will be. But if you look around the globe, the pattern is precisely the opposite. Most rich countries have high population densities: Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands. Famine and poverty are much more common in sparsely populated countries, like Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan.
The population scare-mongers are operating on a faulty philosophy. They see every child as a mouth to feed–nothing more. In their thinking, every time a child is born, we all end up with a smaller slice of the pie.
But this is incredibly short-sighted. As children grow older they don’t just eat pies, they can bake new ones. They can add to society’s pool of labor and creativity. And it is human creativity that determines whether a nation is rich or poor.
Human capital comes up with better ways to grow food–so that today only 3 percent of the American work force grows enough food for the entire nation. Human capital develops new ways to locate natural resources. Since 1950 the known reserves of iron have increased more than 1,000 percent, as we develop better ways to locate and extract it. Human capital finds new ways to be productive with old resources. For example, the silicon in a computer chip is made from ordinary sand.
The real cause of poverty is not people but sin and oppression. The number one cause of hunger in the world today is war, followed closely by political corruption and centralized economic control. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 310-1)
The formula is simple: when relativism holds sway long enough, everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes without any regard for submission to truth. In this atmosphere, a society begins to break down. Virtually every structure in a free society depends on a measure of integrity–that is, submission to the truth. When the chaos of relativism reaches a certain point, the people will welcome any ruler who can bring some semblance of order and security. So a dictator steps forward and crushes the chaos with absolute control. Ironically relativism–the great lover of unfettered freedom–destroys freedom in the end. (John Piper, Think, 114)
Religion is the major reason the West rose to become the most prosperous civilization in the world. In the Middle Ages, Europe was like a modern Third World country, with little education, widespread poverty, and recurring famine. Medieval Christians thought of holy living as something required only of a spiritual elite–just as the Bible belonged only to an elite, the priests and monks. The common people felt little moral imperative to be honest or industrious.
But the Reformation changed that. The Reformers taught that all believers are called to live holy lives–just as all may read the Bible. Every vocation can be a calling, a way to serve God and the human community. As a result, the Reformation stressed an ethic of honesty, diligence, and thrift–what has been called the Protestant work ethic. It had a profound effect economically. Modern business practices became possible, prosperity blossomed.
Today we have nearly forgotten that the foundation of our economy lies in the Christian moral vision. And as a result, we are seeing our economy dragged down by dishonesty and fraud. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 305)
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