ARE YOU SELLING THE SWEEPINGS WITH THE WHEAT?
One of the poignant reminders that God is interested in how we treat one another is the level of detail in the instructions He gave the prophets for day-to-day living in Israel. For example, He specified some ways the poor can be provided for, gave guidelines for interpersonal relationships and warned against cheating customers in business as the following scriptures show:
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God” – Leviticus 19:9-10.
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” – Leviticus 19:18.
“Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord” – Proverbs 20:10.
In line with the last, my attention was recently drawn to the Bible verse where God frowned at traders selling the sweepings with the wheat. I present it below with the surrounding verses for context:
“4. Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5. saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’- skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6. buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. 7. The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: ‘I will never forget anything they have done'” Amos 8:4-7. (NIV) [emphasis, mine]
(Related: How To Uphold God’s Standards In Our Workplaces 1)
Fair business dealing is a moral issue and cannot be sidestepped by Christians as irrelevant to them simply because these scriptures were directed to the Israelites. God was describing a situation where people sell the chaff with the grain to get undeserved profit. In today’s manufacturing economy, that would be like selling defective products along with good ones. In sane climes, companies embark on recall of entire lines of products once they are discovered to pose danger to consumers or to be ineffective.
Yet ever so often, especially in countries where regulations are not properly enforced, people buy well packaged goods only to get home and discover they are substandard or nonfunctional (they should have been trashed by the companies’ Quality Control units). As a result, many know very well the pain of feeling defrauded.
However, the highlighted part of v. 6 above can be understood in a broader context beyond the commercial one explained above. One of my pastors once said that whatever you do for a living is your business. If you get your livelihood from the educational sector, teaching could be your business. If you’re in the health sector, tending the sick as a doctor or a nurse could be your business.
When we have this understanding, we can see the relevance of this scripture to us. Are we offering quality service at our duty posts or are we negligent of our duties? We hear stories of (and perhaps we have seen) teachers who spend more time talking about their personal lives than teaching their subjects. Selling the sweepings with the wheat! We hear of patients who are unattended for hours upon hours by hospital staff who are not overstretched. Selling the sweepings with the wheat!
The Bible in the book of Colossians says that whatever we do as believers should be done as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). When teachers are in training, they do what is called teaching practice. They are assigned to a school where they spend some time putting into effect what they have learned. At some point in this exercise, supervisors from their institutions come to evaluate their performance. Expectedly, they put their best foot forward on such occasions. But when they get their certificates, they may not always discharge their duties with the same passion and dedication.
What a difference it would make if they thought that God was watching them teach! And He is! Whatever our jobs, how much more committed and painstaking we would be if we realised we are answerable to God for how we perform and not just to our human superiors! Take a look at that passage in Colossians earlier cited.
“23. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” – Colossians 3:23-24.
So, pastor, when you tell many stories from your travels without feeding the flock under you with the regenerative word of God, remember that rebuke from Amos. When you, civil servant, give people the runaround before responding to their routine requests, you are selling the sweepings with the wheat.
(Related: How To Uphold God’s Standards In Our Workplaces 2)
We must offer quality in the service and goods others get from us. It doesn’t matter how many people we are attending to or their status. In other words, we should put on our best show whether our students, parishioners or clients are few or many, whether they are highly placed or not. Remember you’re putting on a display for the God of the universe. So always give nothing but your best! And as far as it rests with you, let each person you serve officially leave with satisfaction.
This reminds me of the biblical account of the life of Daniel the prophet. Although he was a Jewish exile in Babylon, he worked so well that he was promoted to the royal court and was set above most of the high officials of the empire. This sparked envy among them and they conspired to pull him down but they couldn’t. Why?
“The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life that they could use against him, but they couldn’t dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct” – Daniel 6:4 (MSG). [emphasis, mine]
Although they entrapped him with a charge unrelated to work and had him thrown into the lions’ den, God rescued him and the lions ate up his detractors and their families on the orders of the king (Daniel, chapter 6).
I want to humbly share a relevant example from my own job. For some of my classes with graduate students that are taken by few students, we usually meet in my office. But I teach as heartily as though I was facing hundreds of students in a hall. And even if I can’t touch everything on the course outline due to time constraints, I ensure, by God’s grace, that the students learn enough to know what each course is about and can hopefully give a good account of themselves in that area.
Why am I doing this? I can say they are graduate students and just give them a bunch of assignments without teaching anything. But I know that God is watching, the students paid to learn something new and they would be disappointed if I threw everything back to them without making an honest effort to take them beyond where they were before we met. Assignments can complement what I have offered them and even in seminar courses, I still have a duty to provide guidance to ensure the experience prepares them for their future researches. Otherwise, I’ll be selling sweepings in place of wheat.
I believe that when we do our jobs like this, someone is bound to notice sooner or later. But even if people do not acknowledge us, God will and His commendation is priceless!
Forgive me, dear Lord, in every way I’ve been selling the sweepings with the wheat in my dealings with others. Help me to honour You in every business transaction I make, whether I am selling products or services in Jesus’ name.
Some relevant scriptures:
“… it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” – 1 Corinthians 4:2.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might …” – Ecclesiastes 9:10.
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” – Romans 12:11 (NLT)
“Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart” – Ephesians 6:6 (CSB).
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” – 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NLT)
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All Rights Reserved.
The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.
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