“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” (Deut 25:13-16).
When I was in Togo, West Africa, several years ago, I found out that because of the color of my skin the goods and services that I purchased were likely to cost me up to 4 times more than for an African. One day I asked a Togolese young man why that was. He responded to me, “If I go to your country, things will cost more for me also, No?”
I never answered his rhetorical question, but within my heart I thought, “No.” We do not have two price tags on items at the grocery store in the United States (by the way in Togo most goods are purchased by bargaining in the local dialect). We normally sell a motorcycle at a fixed cost, perhaps with some room for negotiations.
Deuteronomy 25 commands absolute equality in commerce. No taking advantage of people who have more money, and no taking advantage of people who have less money. Everybody must be treated equally. We must not pull out of our bag one set of weights for certain folks, and another set of weight for others. Our weights must be honest and have integrity.
That command does not mean that we cannot give gifts to friends and family, or give bargains and sale prices on commodities. However, it does mean that even in sale prices, those items ought to be honestly sold as well.
And the command is tied to a blessing and a curse. Honest weights brings blessing, and different weights brings a curse.
In the U.S. we have a government agency that oversees weights and measures. Its purpose is to maintain honest weights and accurate measures. It may be that this one factor has brought significant prosperity to the U.S. as many generations of immigrants have come and been blessed to buy and sell in an honest and honorable economic system, for the most part.
I am reminded of two young men from our church in Quebec who set out to start a woodworking business together. Their first contract was with a large ski resort in the area. They were so happy for the contract that they bought the wood, made the items, and delivered them. But they were never paid. That one business venture was their only business venture in woodworking. They went out of business and had to find other jobs.
Yes, economic integrity does matter, and it either subverts or lifts up the entire culture.