The Short Measure

The late Jerry Clower, a teller of funny stories, related a hilarious tale about the lady who went into an old-fashioned butcher shop. She said to the proprietor behind the refrigerated meat case, “I would like a 3½ pound frying chicken.” It was near the end of the day, and as the butcher reached down behind the counter into the chest full of ice that had contained the poultry, he found there was only one left. He plopped the chicken on the scale, and it weighed a little less than 3½ pounds. The customer said, “Well, I’d like one that is a little larger.” With that, the butcher put the chicken back in the ice chest, swished it around to fill the body cavity with ice, then plopped the bird again on the scale.  It now weighed 4 pounds.  “Oh, good!” the lady exclaimed, “I’ll take both of them!”

Imagine the man’s embarrassment as he tried to explain his deception to the eager lady. While this story may elicit a chuckle, it illustrates an important principle that is addressed in very plain language in the Bible. Anciently, in the Old Testament, God plainly called for honest weights and measures as one facet of a godly society. We read: “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

This admonition is repeated in the book of Leviticus, “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin” (Leviticus 19:35-36). While the measurements described may today be a little obscure, the meaning certainly is plain: Be honest in all your dealings, including weights and measures. We find this guidance again when we read: “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” (Proverbs 11:1).

In each state across the United States, as in many other countries, there is a government department that regulates the weights and measures used in everyday commerce. For example, gasoline pumps are regularly checked, to be sure that customers who are charged for a gallon do not actually receive less. To protect the consumer, scales are checked to verify that correct weights are being shown. While it is sad that these inspections are needed, they serve to protect the consumer from unscrupulous operators.

We also find this biblical principle challenged in other, more subtle ways. You may have noticed that food packagers sometimes reduce the amount of food contained in a package, while leaving the size of the package (and its price) unchanged. The “box of 12” now contains 11 items for the same price. In effect, the unassuming consumer is given a “short measure.” In the workplace, how often will employees “pad” their timesheets, seeking pay for hours not worked, and how frequently will an expense account inflate actual expenses, thereby giving the employer the “short measure”?

The prophet Micah captured it perfectly when he wrote, “Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the short measure that is an abomination? Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales, And with the bag of deceitful weights?” (Micah 6:10-11).

What a different world it would be if these simple but important principles were observed today! Thankfully, a time is soon coming when the whole world will be governed by godly principles that will bring incredible blessings upon all humanity. You can read about that time in our free booklet, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? Until then, be sure that you are always giving the full measure, and never the “short measure”!

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