Ancient Egyptians believed that they gained entry into the afterlife only after Ma’at, the goddess of justice, weighed their heart. She placed it on a balance scale opposite virtue, represented by a feather. If the heart balanced the scales, the deceased would gain a wonderful afterlife. A heart laden with misdeeds would tip the scale, condemning the person to a horrible oblivion.
I’m not sure how anyone could pass that test. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Ma’at!
The weight of worth
Since the fourth millennium BC, scales have been used to measure weight and worth against different standards. Wages, commerce, trade, and taxation relied on scales. Paul was thinking of weights and scales when he told the Ephesians (Gentiles new to Christianity) to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Paul’s word choice for “worthy” (in Greek, axiós) means something recognized as fitting because its worth matches its actual value. In other words, the scales balance.
Axiós found its way into English with “axis” and “axle.” Both words emphasize the importance of balance. An axis is a fixed line for measuring mathematical coordinates. An axle is the shaft on which your car tires rotate.
When Paul tells the Ephesians to “live a life worthy,” he means that what we believe must affect how we live. Action should balance belief. In Ephesians 4:1–4, Paul explains what action looks like. He mentions patience, gentleness, and forbearance—but repeatedly emphasizes “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Is the Church unified today? No. It’s out of balance with what God intends for it to be. People are using dishonest scales to measure what’s “right.” I can’t fathom how much that grieves God.
Balanced weights and scales
From Deuteronomy on, the Bible exhorts the use of fair weights and says God hates dishonest scales. Yet, throughout history, people have used deceit to tip the scales. Some merchants used different weights for buying versus selling. All merchants carried a bag of stones of supposedly standard weights, but they could counterfeit the weights to cheat people out of what they were due. In contrast, Proverbs 16:11 says “Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.”
Out-of-balance actions and morals will inevitably affect the soul.
Today’s scales of justice
Worldwide, modern-day versions of the Egyptian goddess Ma’at appear as statues of Lady Justice. Three elements of those statues embody justice. Blindfolded eyes symbolize impartiality; scales indicate the weight of evidence; a sword exemplifies the authority of justice. Justice may be blind, but it’s often neither impartial nor just. Society is ignoring the balanced scales of God’s immutable Word in favor of personal opinion—where convictions are selective, tolerance is subjective, and compromise is coerced.
That’s nothing new. During King Belshazzar’s abominable feast with a thousand of his nobles, God wrote a message on the banquet hall’s wall that only the prophet Daniel could interpret. The message included the indictment, “You have been weighed on the scales and found lacking [deficient]” (Daniel 5:27). Unfortunately, that applies to all of us. Everyone has fallen short of what God wants us to be. No amount of human effort can balance God’s scales. But God can. He already has.
Life is short. Eternity is long. I lovingly urge you to settle your relationship with Jesus. Ask God to balance the scales as only He can:
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
When you do, you will no longer be “carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, you’ll speak the truth in love and grow in all ways more like Christ.
You can’t earn God’s love—but you can accept it. Embrace that truth and feel your heart get lighter!
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Did you know that dishonest weights continued when coinage was introduced to Judea and surrounding regions around the 7th century BC? Some people “clipped” coins—literally shaved a bit of them off—so a person didn’t receive their full payment due. People made a living amassing clippings to make more coins. Old deceit, new technique.