When Weights and Measures Aren’t Standardized
When weights and balances are not standardized, a tricky question that quickly arises is: how much profit ought we to make? In farming, the good soil can give hundredfold, and even more (Matt. 13:8). We also know that there are some business undertakings that give unlimited returns without the businessman necessarily exploiting his customers. For example, it is my policy to make my books affordable as much as possible. Regardless of the low price, if I could sell millions of copies, I would profit more than hundredfold. Should this happen, I would need to let the Holy Spirit talk to me how I should give back something.
When we lack the standardized rule, we have to ask ourselves, where does over-charging come in? I heard two testimonies, one a few months after I got saved, the other, just recently. In the first one, a servant of God had bought a bed that he intended to use. He later realized that he needed money for an urgent matter. He decided to sell the bed. I can’t remember exactly at what price he said he bought the bed, neither do I remember at what price he sold it. What I remember is that he got much more than he bought it at to the extent that he gave a testimony how God remarkably blessed him. He maintained that it was a miracle for somebody to have accepted to buy the bed at the price he charged.
Could the above have been taking advantage of consumer ignorance? Suppose the buyer later found out that a new bed of the kind was costing less than what he paid for the second hand one, will he not accuse the servant of God for ‘overcharging’ him?
In the second testimony I heard recently, a renowned servant of God was testifying how he impulsively bought a car at an auction. He later realized that the car had a problem and that it would be extremely expensive to run. He decided to quickly sell it before the problem got worse. He didn’t of course tell the new buyer of the problem that car had. If he did, he would lose money. Because the new buyer didn’t suspect anything, the servant of God made a huge profit out of the car. He praised God for turning things around for him, kind of alluding to Romans 8:28. He thanked God for boosting him financially in what could have been a misadventure.
There is a danger that sometimes we invoke God’s name in things that He may scold. In Proverbs 11:1, the Bible says, “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight” (see also Lev. 19:36; Prov. 16:11, 20:23; Ezek. 45:10; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11).
We are wont to take advantage of one another in the bargain as we buy and sell, especially when there is no clear standard. A buyer can take advantage of a seller’s desperation; a seller can take advantage of a buyer’s ignorance. This ought not to be so, especially for believers.
The best way to control the ‘weight and balance’ where there is no standardized way to determine the buying and selling prices is to use Christ’s golden rule: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). A warning derivative of the said golden rule is also true: Don’t do to others what you’d not have them do to you. If we are guided by this virtue, the guiding principle will be:
If we can’t buy it at the price we demand for it, then it is wrong to sell it at that price simply because we realize we can take advantage of the buyer.
Likewise, if we can’t sell it at the price we want to buy it, then it is wrong to buy it at that price simply because we realize we can take advantage of the seller.
It is not wrong, however, if the buyer himself willingly accepts to pay more, or if a seller willingly accepts to charge less.
Reflections and Questions to Ponder
a) What about envying the prosperity of the righteous—what is your take about this?
b) What are the characteristics of the prosperity of the righteous?
c) In what ways can a wicked prosperity be ‘spiritualized’ to beguile believers?4. Do you have something (or are you something) that somebody might be envying? What happens if you fail to recognize what you have and are as you envy others for what they are and have?5. Is there a favors in your life that you are aware of? What do you do with your favours?6. A rich man may see something admirable in the neigbourhood, instead of ‘coveting’ it, he goes and buys his. Does this mean rich people may not be as covetous as poor people as far as material things are concerned?7. If you always remember the responsibilities of stewardship, how will this help you manage the privileges of God’s favours?