God Loves Honest Scales in Finance

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By Brian Isaac Bauer

“Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry materials or liquids must be accurate." (Leviticus 19:35–36, New Living Translation)

“The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but He delights in accurate weights.” (Proverbs 11:1 NLT)

The scales we use today are abstract. Modern finance is the set of scales relied upon by business leaders, owners, and customers. Accounting reports tell owners about the performance of their business. A cash flow analysis tells a buyer whether or not they are getting a good deal when acquiring a company. A discounted cash flow view can help a manager know if his project is worth launching. And here’s where things get interesting. Accounting is governed by a set of rules, but the rules must be interpreted and the methods for adhering to those rules spark vigorous debate. Publicly traded companies are required to have their books audited by external auditors, but that’s still no guarantee of universal equivalent measure. As anyone who has been through an audit can attest, there is variation from person to person on how audits are conducted and findings published. Corporate finance has guidelines, but even fewer objective weightings. One analyst’s decision about excluding an item as a sunk cost in an analysis may differ from another’s, and they may both have good reason to do so. While sale of financial products to the public is governed by a set of laws, often there are complexities inherit in the products themselves that make the job of judging them accurately a difficult task indeed. For accuracy in weights, there is an international prototype kilogramme made of nine-tenths platinum and one-tenth iridium, locked under 3 glass jars in the Pavillon de Breteuil . But there is no vault in Paris where a set of true financial products are locked away for comparison to the deals being evaluated.

Let's think about what else Proverbs 11:1 is saying to us. God is passionate about honesty in commerce. Some translations use the word “abhor” instead of “detest.” The word means disgust and hatred, strong language for how God thinks about dishonesty in business dealings. What about the other side? Does He say, “I hate dishonest scales, get rid of the tools of commerce and go back to bartering?” No, He says honest scales are delightful to Him. Let’s consider that for a moment. Making a deal with a customer that’s accurate, fair, and honest is something that pleases God. We as business men and women should be encouraged that God is delighted when we do our job with integrity

Brian Isaac Bauer is a financial manager at Boeing.