Why God Delights in the Metric System

Fairness and justice were difficult before we looked to creation for our measurements. /

There are few sermon series on the metric system. There are Christian books about rulers aplenty, but always about the kinds with crowns, not marks. The scales you hear about at church are the ones that fell from Paul’s eyes—not the ones that weigh goods.

But in the Bible, God cares a lot about measurement. There are laws about measurement. Proverbs on measurement. Those money-changers in the temple? They were likely using measurement shenanigans (money was based, after all, on weight).

We take it for granted that we have accurate, universally accepted measures. We fail to realize the value of the metric system. It’s not just about better science. Standardized, accurate measurement is necessary for justice.

That’s not an overstatement. For most of human history, powerful people could tip the scales, literally.

Hebrew law protected against this. Leviticus sets a standard weight for money. Only the “shekel of the sanctuary” and later the “shekel of the king” were to be used in fulfilling the law. Deuteronomy includes specific prohibitions against even owning two different weights, one heavier and one lighter.

Such laws point to the problems of measurement. Measures were parochial, often varying from region to region or even village to village. A landowner could demand a larger “bushel” when collecting from a serf and then sell it using a smaller “bushel.”

Northwestern University historian Ken Adler’s history of the development of the meter and the metric system lays out the problem. In France alone, there were over 250,000 different units of measure. People would use one measure of length for short things (the span of a hand) and another ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 39 / January 7, 2016
  1. Editor’s Note

    Issue 39: Your brain’s missing links, the scales of justice, and why seeing sin is such a relief. /

  2. Hallelujah, I’m a Miserable Sinner

    It’s only after we meet our Savior that we understand how much we need him. /

  3. Creation by Subtraction

    Be thankful you’ve lost much of your mind since your youth. /

  4. Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes

    “Shall I devolve into dust bunnies?” /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 39: Links to amazing stuff.

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