Measuring Up | Tomorrow’s World

Measuring Up

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With God’s help, you can measure up to the most important standard of all.

We live in an age addicted to measuring things. If we think about it, weights and measures are integral to modern living and can make all the difference to engineering, manufacturing, construction, commerce, trade, food preparation, and industry—almost every area of life. Accuracy of measurement means the difference between functioning successfully and breaking down. But how many have considered what important lessons we can learn from the Bible’s perspective on measuring things? Do we measure up to God’s standards? They are more important than most might think.

Origins of Different Systems of Measurement

The origin of measurement relates to something we have all probably done at some point. When you need to measure something and you have nothing to measure with, you use your feet or your hands to do a quick estimate. This is essentially where many of our systems of measurement originated in the ancient world. A finger breadth was a digit; the width of a thumb under the nail became an inch; a handbreadth across the knuckles was a palm; the span from heel to big toe became a foot; from the elbow to tip of the middle finger a cubit; and so on. Although, of course, these measurements vary from one person’s body to another, and from one part of the world to another, they were close enough to form an agreeable basis for bartering and early trade.

The history of different units of measurement reflects the trade interactions of different peoples and the empires in power. In the British Isles, many measurement units came from the Romans, who in turn had gained their measurement systems from the Greeks and Babylonians.

The Magna Carta, written in 1215, contains the earliest declaration of uniformity in the measurement of grain and wine. This was built on the earlier royal standard of a bushel, which dated from the tenth century and was later named the Winchester standard, after the English capital at the time. King Henry VII (reigned 1485–1509) reaffirmed and expanded the Winchester standard, sending actual, physical yardsticks throughout his realm. English Standard Units prior to the Imperial System included units you may have never heard of: barleycorn (third of an inch), gill (five fluid ounces), peck (quarter of a bushel), and grain (one seven-thousandth of an avoirdupois pound). The British Imperial System of Units was first defined in the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 under King George IV (reigned 1820–1830).

From 1965, British government policy supported the voluntary adoption of the metric system, also known as the International System of Units. Today, the International System goes to great lengths to make a highly accurate definition of one metre, linking it to the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second. The International System is used almost everywhere around the world; however, it is only partially adopted in Canada and the United Kingdom, and very minimally in the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar.

For those attending school in 1970s Britain, while the International System was being brought into use, it meant being taught a confusing mix of metric and Imperial units. Though the metric system is based upon simpler units in multiples of ten, many in Britain accepted it only reluctantly, and to this day many still think in Imperial units.

Since Brexit, the British government has taken steps toward the return of Imperial weights and measures in shops and on market stalls. This is hailed as an example of the country’s post-Brexit freedoms, with many Britons viewing the metric system as an unwelcome relic of European Union interference.

Spiritual Measurement

God has very strong opinions on the use of accurate measurements, which deter merchants stealing from a customer or customers taking more than they pay for at the shops. Our measure of generosity to others affects how God blesses us. Even more important for us to consider is how we measure up to the spiritual standard Jesus Christ set for us.

In Scripture, God expresses concern that traders should deal justly with customers and not steal by using dishonest weights on their scales. They should ensure that when they sell one pound of flour, it is exactly one pound and not a little less because of weights dishonestly made lighter. We read, “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” (Proverbs 11:1). God wants us to deal justly with others and requires us to use honest measurements to do so (Leviticus 19:35–36). These statutes of God are the practical application of the Eighth Commandment, which forbids stealing.

These principles of Scripture go beyond the practicalities of physical weights and measure; they apply to how we interact with one another. God expects us to show outgoing concern for others and a generous, giving attitude (2 Corinthians 9:7). When God sees this in our actions, He promises to reward us in abundance—but if we use a small measure and give little, we will be blessed with little. Christ assures us, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

The Apostle Paul describes Christ’s appointment of faithful ministers to edify the Church and teach God’s way of life. And Christians, as we overcome, should become more like Jesus Christ in our behaviour. Scripture tells us it is unwise to compare ourselves against other fallible human beings (2 Corinthians 10:12). We must compare ourselves maturely, not to other people, but to Christ’s standard of conduct—then, our measurement will be pure and accurate, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:13–15).

The Greek word translated “measure” here is metron, from which we get our English words metre and metric, and it is defined as, “proverbially, the rule or standard of judgment” (“Lexicon: Strong’s G3358—metron,” When we measure ourselves as spiritually immature and falling short in doctrinal understanding and practice, we can make corrections with God’s help. By measuring ourselves with God’s standard of judgment, using the standard of Jesus Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21), we can grow stronger spiritually, coming closer to the spiritual maturity of our Elder Brother, as God wants us to do.

Our Father holds us to account in how we measure what we buy or sell, how we give to others, and, most importantly, how we assess our true spiritual condition. He requires the standard we use to be just, true, and accurate. He gives us His perfect standard in the Ten Commandments and in how our elder brother Jesus Christ followed them. To learn more, request a free copy of The Ten Commandments or read it online at


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