Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah (dry measure), and an honest hin (liquid measure). I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt (Leviticus 19:35-36).
God gave this command for Israel to govern her economic activity with honesty. God expects Israel to obey this command. God states the reason in giving this command – He is the one who liberated them from slavery in Egypt. By stating this reason, in a way, God is telling His people that if they fail to follow His command, He is also able to send them back to slavery.
Through this command, God demonstrates that He and His word are sovereign in man’s economic activity. Israel is to be the “salt” and “light” of the world through their economic activity as a nation. If honesty rules supreme in their economic activity, God is properly represented by His people before the world.
Exercising honesty in economic activity entails a standard. This standard must be fixed. Without this standard, it is impossible to maintain order and harmony in economic activity. This standard is evident in the market through the use of physical measurements.
This measurement can assume diverse forms – scales, weights, and balances. To tamper with this standard of measurement is a clear violation of God’s command.
People who are prone to violate this command are those who have access or control over such physical standard of measurement. In the market, it is the sellers. People trust the sellers. Without trust, economic activity is difficult to maintain. But when sellers abuse people’s trust and cheat them by tampering weights, they are actually robbing the people.
Tampering physical measurements has both immediate and ultimate consequences. When sellers get away with their unjust economic practices, corrupt people win and honest people lose. It further reduces the efficiency of the market for buyers will be more cautious in the next economic transaction screening fraudulent economic practices. God does not tolerate such men indefinitely. Ultimately, he will bring wicked men and their evil economic practices into judgment.
In our time, tampering physical measurements is done in various ways. One common example is by “injecting water” into fowl’s meat. In this case, it is not the weight that is tampered, but the goods. But the offense remains the same. There is deceit and honesty no longer governs man’s economic activity.
When it comes to monetary transaction, fraud and deceit are more difficult to uncover. Unlike in the old days when people used gold and silver as medium of exchange, it was easy to identify whether the fineness of gold or silver coins was tampered. But in a world of paper money, fraud is hiding behind human laws and that is why people cannot see it.
The idea of paper money originally came into existence to represent gold money in bank reserve. Each paper money represents a corresponding gold coin in reserve. This is just and honest. To issue therefore a paper money to the public without the reserve is fraudulent. It is theft. It is a kind of tampering with weights and physical measurement.
The big problem now in the existing monetary system is the creation of paper money without even a reserve. Austrian economists call it “counterfeiting.” It is a form of theft. It is a clear violation of God’s economic command.
Note: The original idea in this article is taken from Chapter 3 of Gary North’s book, Honest Money.