Double Standards

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD. (Proverb 20:10)

God hates a double-standard — one standard applied to ourselves or our friends and allies, slanting things in our own favor, and another standard applied to our rivals or adversaries that slants things against them.  The idea of a double standard comes from these divers weights and divers measures spoken of in the proverb. The Hebrew reads “a stone and a stone, a measure and a measure.”  The idea is that you have a large weight and a small weight, a large measure and a small measure. Depending on the transaction, one set would be used for buying and the other for selling.

To this day, this kind of thing is a universal means of cheating your customer.  We do it with or without scales and weights.  When buying merchandise, we point out the flaws and talk the product down.  When selling, we ignore (or conceal) the flaws and talk the product up.  The age-old double standard still carries the freight.

The book of Proverbs often uses the two weights and two measures as a metaphor for injustice. 

A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. (Proverbs 11:1)

A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work. (Proverbs 16:11)

Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good. (Proverbs 20:23)

This must have been a fairly common practice at various times in Israel’s history. The prophets pointed to this practice as a particular cause of God’s judgment.    

He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. (Hosea 12:7)

Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? (Amos 8:4-5)

Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? (Micah 6:10-11)

God specifically forbids this kind of double standard in His law.

Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

A double standard is a big deal, and God is particularly concerned with it.  He repeatedly warned against it.  Failure to heed His warning brought down God’s wrath on His people.  And God calls it an abomination – the strongest word in the Bible for what a holy God sees as vile and hateful.

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What infuriates God the most about the double standard, I think, is the fact that it is used under a pretense of justice.  The merchant in the marketplace pulls out the weight and pulls out the scale and pretends to give a square deal.  Only, his weight is too light and his scale is too small and he cheats his customer coming and going.  God cannot stomach this kind of fraud under the guise of honesty.  A holy God demands an equal measure. So then, we must place a high priority on integrity, on being honest and fair in our dealings.

God forbids us to have sliding scales of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, based on your like or dislike of a person.  A moveable standard of justice is injustice.  The temptations to this are many-fold.  Social justice aside, we could spend hours railing against the ephah-shrinking and inflated shekels in the world of politics.  “Mostly peaceful protests, with a side order of Molotov cocktails” comes immediately to mind.

I won’t attempt to address every manifestation of shekel-shaving in this article.  I have noticed, however, that parents tend to have one weight for their own children and another weight for other children.  I have noticed that, in churches where the bus ministry is emphasized, adults have a way of making the ephah small and the shekel great when dealing with the church kids.  So, let me address here a few points for consideration.

When parents teach a class that includes their own children, I will sometimes hear them boast that they are harder on their own kids than they are on other kids.  Most of the time, this is a conceit.  But assuming that these parents are actually being harder on their own kids than they are on others, at least at the classroom level, this is injustice.  A teacher should have one standard of behavior for their class.  If you want your children to behave better, correct them at home.  But don’t correct your children in the class for behavior that you allow from other students.  The age-old “they don’t know any better” doesn’t hold any water either.  You are the teacher.  You set the expectation and you enforce that expectation. 

When teachers hold their own children to one standard and the rest of their class to another, whether that standard is higher or lower, they have fostered an injustice.  Their children will respond with bitterness or conceit.  Nothing produces a priggish little Pharisee quite like the knowledge that “I am held to a higher standard.”  The haut oozes from the elevated nose. 

On the other hand, nothing gives a teenager a greater sense that “I can never be good enough for my parents” quite like that so-called “higher” standard.  This idea of holding your kids to a higher standard than others did not come from the Bible.  Sure, at home, you set the expectations for your children, and you require them to live up to that expectation.  But don’t flatter yourself that your standards are higher than everyone else’s.  That isn’t the point to begin with.  The point is to please God and honor parents, and at the judgment seat, God won’t be handing out red ribbons for second place.  If you teach your children to live up to God’s standards, you can assure them that in the last day, they too will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

While parents often boast that they hold their own children to a higher standard than others, I find that in the normal course of things, the opposite is true.  Too many mothers, especially in Christian churches, hover around their children making sure they always get a fair shake, and run ahead of them with a snow shovel, clearing the way so they won’t have to tramp through heavy snow.  This isn’t helpful to children.  In fact, it has contributed largely to our modern wussified ideal that life should be pain free for me. 

Don’t make excuses for your children, and don’t trash them either.  I have observed a number of parents who act like it is a virtue to constantly criticize their children.  And I have also noticed that those same parents often make excuses for their children when they do something that really ought to be dealt with.  Do your kids a favor: correct what needs correcting and commend what is commendable.  Don’t allow personal embarrassment to dictate your response to your children.

Just as frequently, I have watched the way churches with a bus ministry will hand out the medals of honor to the bus kids and the raspberries to the church kids.  I’m not sure why, if a child’s parents actually bring them to church, that should subject them to the scorn of their Sunday School teachers.  Yet, I have heard adult workers tell children that they are spoiled because their parents bring them to church.  In what world?  Is this an alternative reality here? 

Similarly, I have watched well-meaning adults treat kids with kid gloves because their parents don’t bring them to church or don’t come to church with them.  This is a classic double standard – what James referred to as “respect of persons.”  When we foster this kind of demeanor towards our own children, we should not be surprised by their later frustration, bitterness, and animosity towards the church.

I get it that we all want to invest in children whose parents aren’t playing an active role in their lives.  I am all for that, by the way.  I’m all for investing in the kids we bring to church.  But in investment terms, our outlay into young people who come to church without their parents is highly speculative.  Most portfolio managers would suggest that you invest more in the blue-chips while committing a small percentage to speculation. 

When a child’s parents bring them to church and pray with them and teach them the Word and point them to Christ at home, that child is a blue-chip investment.  If the adults at the church will nurture that child and surround him with love and respect and support, they will reap rich dividends from their investment.

I’m not urging anyone to love the bus kids any less.  I’m urging you to love the church kids as much as you love the bus kids.  Don’t bring two shekels and two ephahs to Sunday School class.

When Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” he wasn’t forbidding us to judge.  He was forbidding us to judge with a double standard.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1-2)

People will hold you (and your kids, by the way) to the standard you use.  More importantly (and I think this is Jesus’ point), God will hold you to that standard.

Finally, be equitable in all that we do.  To be equitable is to be fair-minded.  It is charity applied to judgment.  Equity teaches us to be merciful in our judgment of people, remembering the frailty and fallenness of human nature.  Equity considers good intentions more than bad actions.  It takes into account the whole story rather than obsessing over unsavory details. Equity teaches us to keep in mind what a person is usually, even as we examine what he has done recently. Equity teaches us to be patient when we have been wronged, to seek peace with people when we have a dispute. Equity doesn’t ramp up the charges against someone else, but rather seeks to minimize the issue. Equity is careful not to charge someone with a crime who made a mistake or an error in judgment.  This is an important part of Christian charity, which the Bible tells us “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

5 thoughts on “Double Standards

  1. Derek Edwards

    Thank you for reminding me of these passages. Although a very practical and simple concept, it is easy to forget as we go about our daily routines. I remember as a young person being bothered by those that would treat me differently than others even when I benefited from the double standard. Too often we as parents or teachers harm our young people by not properly following the Scriptures. If we do not exercise this principle the devil can plant the seeds of bitterness within the hearts of our teens and they begin to “shut out” authority. Thank you for the reminder and challenge.

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