Sunday, June 28, 2009

Faulty Weights and Measures

Proverbs 20:9-10

“Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”
“Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike, an abomination to the Lord.”


The book of Proverbs can be puzzling. Sometimes there appears to be no logical pattern in their progression, glorious variety prevailing from verse to verse. Like precious gems poured down from heaven’s treasury, each Proverb is attractive on its own, though not clearly tied together. But maybe like the secret slender string that holds together the necklace of pearls, the connections exist in more subtle and less obvious ways. A golden thread woven by the Holy Spirit tying more of the smooth stones together than what first meets the eye. The two Proverbs above may be such a pair. I find it intriguing that a verse that speaks of man’s delusions of innocence (“I am pure from my sin”) is immediately followed by man’s inclination to false weights and measures (“Diverse weights and diverse measures”). It is as though the Holy Spirit was pointing out the fatal folly of fallen man who measures his own soul by a ruined ruler of his own depraved devising. Mankind, desperate to measure up, but finding God’s standard of holiness too straight, has invented novel appraisals by which to weigh his worth. “Every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2).”

I should like to consider what are some of these false weights and measures by which man flatters himself that his “heart is clean” and he is “pure from my sin.”

1) Men weigh and measure themselves by comparing themselves to worse men or even the worst of men. We think we are pure enough, so long as someone filthier can be found. We judge ourselves by the standard of the worst and vainly believe that numbers us among the best. As long as a greater sinner can be summoned, we surmise that we are safe. As long as there is some heinous crime we have not committed, we conjecture our case is not so corrupt. Like the hypocrite who stands in the temple and prays “Lord I thank You I am not as THAT sinner…” so we vainly assume that God accounts us pure so long there is someone viler to be found.

But oh my soul this is a false weight and false measure! The Lord God does not measure our souls by the worst, but by the best. He does weigh us not by the lightest standard of holiness, but by the heaviest. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” It is not the flawed nature of fallen man that the Lord has fixed as His measure, but the perfect holiness and obedience of His Son to which all men shall be compared. Oh what shall come of you one day, dear reader, when you must stand before a holy Judge and be lined up with His standard of goodness, purity and truth? If left to stand on the scales alone, we shall all be without hope. We shall be “weighed in the balances and found wanting (Dan. 5:27).

2) Men weigh and measure themselves by comparing their good works to their evil works and think the balance is in favor of the good. This is because we ascribe much weight to our good deeds and very little weight to our wicked deeds. We assume one small good deed, though done rarely, is of great weight in God’s scale, but our wicked thoughts, our daily neglect of His law, our ignorance of His Word, our absence from His house, our prayerless life, our misuse of His name, our dishonoring of His day, our silence concerning His salvation…all these we imagine are but small things and of little weight. We think one small coin thrown into the coffer of mercy weighs more than our infinite sins which are piled higher than the sun and weigh more than all the water of the seas. We think our good works are so heavy, but “if they are weighed in the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor (Psalm 62:9).” All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

Oh what delusions we embrace! We think our attendance at one religious service shall tip the scales in our favor though most of our days are spent without the slightest thoughts of God! We think that one donation to a worthy cause shall erase a whole life devoted to our own pleasures and plans. What rule is this? It is the diverse measures employed by our sinful hearts to justify our souls…and they are an “abomination to the Lord.” Oh how many souls blindly march toward eternity, confident that this false measure will fair them well in heaven’s court! Oh sinful surveyor that thinks his crooked life will pass as straight when measured by the plumb line of the Lord (Amos 7:8)!

3) Men weigh and measure themselves by ascribing much importance to any religious sentiments, expressions, beliefs or activities. Maybe it’s a Bible in the bureau that strikes within your soul certain spiritual sentiments. Maybe it’s the years of service in some Sunday school, your pleasant prayers of past or present, your rigorous respect for religious icons on relics, or your delicate discussions of diverse doctrines. All these you ascribe great weight unto, and by this diverse measure you expect the Lord will surely acknowledge and accept your ways. We imagine the Lord will measure us by our religious exercises rather than by a renewed heart.
Oh that men would perceive how inadequate such a standard is before the eyes of a heart-searching God! “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12) is His command. The Lord looks not for the tongues of angels but a heart of grace born love (I Cor. 13:1). Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the inside. How many shall claim diligence in the outward forms of religion who shall one day hear from Christ “I never knew you (Matt. 7:23)?” Tears and hopes and prayers in you will never save, but “Christ in you” is the only hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Oh treacherous tools by which we exaggerate the security of our souls, utterly unmindful that the Judge of all the earth employs a more exacting measure than we imagine.

4) Men weigh and measure themselves by comparing their own failures to the greatest failures of holy men. How many have lulled their souls to sleep by simply remembering and focusing upon the failures of otherwise godly men? We think to ourselves “Noah was drunk, and he was saved. David a murderer and an adulterer and he was saved. Abraham a polygamist and a liar and he was saved. Sarah a doubter and she was saved. Jacob a deceiver and he was saved. Moses was angry and he was saved. Peter a coward and denier and he was saved."
Ah”, we flatter ourselves; “surely we are not as bad as them!” If they made it to heaven then so shall we. Oh malicious measuring that focuses only upon their faults and not upon their faith. Yes, they had great and grievous sins, but they also had a grand and glorious Savior! They have in Christ provision for their transgressions, though many. But you have in yourself no such provision, even though your sins be few. Faith in Christ can make the foulest clean, but unbelief will never cover even the tiniest transgression, the smallest sin, the most miniscule misdeed. Do not comfort yourself because saved men have sinned, but only comfort yourself in the Savior of these great sinners, Jesus Christ. “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25).”

5) Men weigh and measure themselves by the perceived difficulty of their circumstances as compared to others. Thus they declare themselves clean and pure for they have only done what their circumstances demanded. Men say to themselves that they only have done what others would have done under similar straights and situations. They excuse their lack of spiritual activities by the busyness of their lives and the demands on their time. They have no time for the Bible because they are engaged in so many toilsome tasks. They pray little to their heavenly Father, because they were crippled by the deficiencies of an earthly father. They steal, but only because their own means were so slim. They curse, but only because their life is hard. They lie, but only because the truth is more than some could bear. They ignore Sundays because they couldn’t improve their Saturday. They dishonor parents because of hardships as a child. So it was in our Lord’s parable of the Great Supper, “they all with one accord began to make excuses (Luke 14:18).” Men think that God will overlook their faults because faith and obedience is harder for them than others.
Oh wretched weights and measures men employ! We think somehow God’s holy standard shall sink in the shifting sand of our circumstances. Sin is sin, no matter how painful our present position and however hard our hand. James says clearly “Therefore to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).” No excuses will lighten the demands of God’s law upon your soul.

Dear reader, are your hopes and dreams of heaven founded upon any of these faulty foundations? There are many more that we could name, for every man seems to carve his own ruler by which to measure him. Do you think that you are pure and your heart is clean from sin? Let this truth ring loudly in your ears: only the Lord can do this. Only God can cleanse a filthy heart. The Psalmist knew this well, and prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God. (Psalm 51:10)” And this God does only by the blood of Christ. “And the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)” Have you faith in the Son of God? Then, and only then, shall we know the full joy of forgiveness; the pleasure of a pure heart the wonder of redeeming love. Do not trust in your scales of self-righteousness. The only weight and measure that will avail on the day of Judgment is the weight of Christ’s righteousness applied to you, and the measure of His blood to wipe away your sin. Oh reader, trust in Him alone!
"But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise....But he who glories let him glory in the Lord. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends (2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18)."