Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making. Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness." Proverbs 16:11-12
The great enemy of the people is a corrupt legal system and ruling elite. Years ago God stipulated that business practices and legal systems practice godly ethics and righteousness. This is not only honorable before God, but it provides the most wholesome opportunity for people to live lives of dignity.
One hundred and fifty years before Christ a wealthy and well-placed member of Roman society, Tiberius Gracchus, was returning home from war. Tiberius didn’t have to go to war. As a member of the upper class he could have sat out of military service. But, he was patriotic and wanted to do his part to ensure the health and vitality of the Roman Empire. So he enlisted.
Tiberius was excited to return home, but upon reaching the limits of his home territory he became very discouraged. Where once there had been numerous farm settlements there now was large tracts of abandoned land. Members of the wealthier classes had been acquiring the land for themselves and developing large estates.
Roman law stipulated that land taken from enemy countries should be made available for public use. The people fought for the land, so they should have access to it. Farmers, laborers, and even the poor would be allowed to rent land, up to three hundred and thirty acres, at a moderate fee to build houses and raise crops. The money they paid the government would go into the public treasury.
But the well-placed and powerful saw an opportunity for their own benefit. By using their position and power they were able to displace the laboring class from the land and take it over for themselves. They didn’t limit their take to only three hundred and thirty acres, either. They took as much land as they wanted to build their mansions or to rent it back to the farmers at much higher rates than the government originally had.
Tiberius was appalled by the complete disregard for the law and for the needs of the poor and working class. These people fought for Rome, yet when they returned from battle, many of them did not have a garden plot to raise their food or a house to sleep in. Within a few hundred yards of the wealthy estates poor people were starving. He decided to do rectify these wrongs.
Tiberius announced that the wealthy robbers should give up the lands they had taken. He did not make war on the wealthy, but he attacked the advantages they gained by doing wrong.
The people were happy and the land grabbers were angry. The wealthy accused Tiberius of disturbing the peace and said he should be killed. But, the great land reformer and advocate of honest government and fair policies did not back down. In a speech to the people he said: "The wild beasts of Italy have their dens and caves, but the brave men who spill their blood in her cause have nothing left but the light and the air. Without houses, without any settled homes, they wander from place to place with their wives and children. They fight and die in order to advance the wealth and luxury of the great. They are called the masters of the world, while they have not a foot of ground in their possession."
The poor elected Tiberius to public office and under his leadership much public land was returned to the people. In their great hatred for him the aristocrats schemed his death They believed that when he died and things went back to how they were, the poor would believe it was the will of the gods, and they would be content. At a public meeting the aristocrats rushed Tiberius and beat him to death with clubs. His body was thrown into the river. (Thomas E. Watson, Sketches from Roman History, Noontide Press).
No class in society is inherently evil or good. But, when one class uses its power inappropriately it can cause others to suffer intolerably. God envisions each class in society functioning in its role for the benefit of the whole community. Kings and other leaders are to detest wrongdoing and are to govern with ethics and concern for the people. The working class contributes labor producing food and other products for the good of all. When each functions as God intends, peace and prosperity is possible. But, when either class decides that labor and government can be manipulated for selfish ends, suffering ensues (cf. Proverbs 28:15).
The wisdom and ethics of Proverbs seeks to establish order in all spheres of life, including our personal lives, the family, neighborhood, work environment and even society at large. It is to the benefit of all that honest scales (ethical business) and righteous government prevails, because not every generation is fortunate enough to have a Tiberius rise up.