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Thursday, August 11, 2011

8/12/11- Honesty as Theft Prevention

Eighth Commandment: You Shall Not Steal. (Deut. 5:19)

You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.(Deut. 25:15)

The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. (Prov. 11:1) (also cf. Pr. 16:11; 20:10,23; Lev. 19:35-36; )

Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? (Micah 6:2)

Thoughts: In some ways, stealing applies to each commandment.  Here is a re-wording of the Ten Commandments from the perspective of not stealing: 1) Do not steal the worship from God; 2) Do not steal the identity of God; 3) Do not steal the honor/name of God; 4) Do not steal the time of God; 5) Do not steal the respect due to others; 6) Do not steal the life of another; 7) Do not steal the spouse of another; 8) Do not steal.  9) Do not steal the truth away; 10) Do not steal in your hearts.
    In the passages above, honesty in commerce is seen as of real imnportance to God.  Why?  It is not just honesty in order to establish a nation, but it is a matter of human trust.  Maybe a few people can get away with stealing (in this life- not in the eyes of God), but generally, if a nation wants to stay out of poverty it must have a sense of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness.  Douglas North won a Nobel Prize in Economics for demonstrating that trust was a necessary institution that led to a better economy.  Some of the poorest countries are also riddled with corruption and distrust. 
    Honesty as a value is a prevention against theft.  If we expect bribes and dishonesty it leads to our own temptation to take a bribe.   So we will be tempted to be the proverbial dishonest used car salesman-- who will always have small print and hidden fees.  But if we are honest and we expect others to be honest as well, then it leads to trust (until that trust is betrayed).  Among honest people the thief stands out.  Among thieves theft is expected, and there is a tendency to sleep with one eye open.  Honesty is the best policy.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to be honest in my studies, in my work, in my dealings with others.  Keep me from being enamored with deception, but instead help me to love you and your righteousness.

John Calvin Abridged: The purpose of this commandment is to "Render to each person their due."  We are not called to pant after another person's possessions, rather we are to do all we can to help them keep them, as all of a person's possessions are of God's distributing.  So we should not exploit another person for our own good.  On the other hand, it would be good to avoid dishonest people, even if we have to lose something by doing so. 

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