Ezekiel 45:8b-17: Honest Justice

Religious piety is bankrupt without justice.
— Richard Foster (The Challenge of the Disciplined Life)

Nothing’s more frustrating than sitting down in front of some mindless TV drama with a fresh bag of chips, only to open the bag and find it half full. I know they sell it by weight, not volume—that doesn’t matter. What matters is I expect a full bag and get half what I thought I paid for. The latest scam is 100 calorie chocolate bars. Anyone with half a brain knows they’ve just figured out a way to sell less chocolate for more money while making the dumb consumers feel healthy in the process.

Okay, my rant’s over.

Just imagine if that deceptive principle was in place in every area of commerce. Imagine if it was actually deceptive instead of just low-handed.

In the three sections of today’s passage from Ezekiel, God deals with princes. In vv. 8b-9, he demands that they be honest in their real-estate dealings. In vv. 10-12, the princes are charged to make sure their weights and scales are legitimate. Finally, in vv. 13-17, the tax rate on grain, oil, and sheep are set. In the future that God showed Ezekiel dishonesty would still be a temptation, so God set his standards in place from the start.

. . .

In Israel’s history, the rulers would often exercise their right to take a commoner’s land. There’s a good example of this in 1 Kings 21, where King Ahab & Jazebel seized Naboth’s land.

God underlines his determination to deal with this by calling the people his own. Lest the ruler be tempted to think the people belonged to him, God reminded him that the people belonged to God and should be treated with respect.

When it came to weights and balances, it was very easy to deceive the poor. Today, there is no question how much liquid is in a litre (or quart). We know 100 centimetres make a metre, and 12 inches make a foot. In Ezekiel’s day though, standards were hard to come by. It was all too easy to put a false bottom in a clay measuring pot, or juice the weights in your favour.

The question of grain, oil, and sheep taxation is very similar to what the moneychangers were exploiting in the Temple, when Jesus showed up with a whip.

. . .

I guess the question for us is, are we fair in our financial dealings. I don’t mean just legally fair, either. Are we Sermon-on-the-Mount-style ethically impeccable? I’ve seen otherwise good and generous Christians go crazy when it came to finalizing a car or a house deal! If we take Jesus seriously, we need to have the welfare of others in mind when we make deals. Isn’t it better to pay a fair price, then to leverage an under-pressure seller?

Whether buying or selling, the charter of the Kingdom of God demands that we strive to be just like the King himself.

. . .

King of Israel, remind me throughout my day-to-day life to stand for justice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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One Response to Ezekiel 45:8b-17: Honest Justice

  1. Robin November 9, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Not only does God want us to be fair and just in our dealings, he also wants us to be generous:

    “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:7-11).

    I find it sad that, both in the OT and NT, the Lord has told us that the poor would always be among us (e.g. Matt. 26:11; Mk. 14:7; Jn. 12:8). I find it sad that it is necessary for God to set out standards of measurement to stop us from cheating each other. Greed has to be the worst thing in the world: Greed to be like God was the first sin committed by man. When I think about the volume of God’s generosity from even before creation, I wonder how the concept of greed ever came to be.

    Greedy and Christian should never be in the same sentence. We should never cheat, never place our wants above those of others. A good deal for us should not be a bad deal for the other party. As a Christian, there is no need to take or withhold from others. Like the Zadokites, the Lord is our portion and our inheritance (Lam. 3:24). What worth to us are the belongings of others or the wealth of this world when we have the Lord? What could be better? Who needs that junk anyway?

    “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:5, 6, 11).

    Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. 🙂

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