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Subways and Scales

January 5th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 11: 1 (NLT)

1 The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales,
      but he delights in accurate weights.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

As a runner, I have become very familiar with the ideas of distance and endurance.  Unlike any other sport, running requires one to concentrate on the mile-at-hand.  You can’t approach a run, whether long distance or short, with instantaneous expectations.  The only way to complete a run and benefit from it is to simply place one foot in front of the other.  

Unless, that is, you were to change the distance you were running.  Hmmm, now that’s an idea.

That’s exactly what happened in the 1980 Boston Marathon.  Her name was Rosie Ruiz and she was a completely unknown runner who set a new world record in the twenty-six mile race.  Amazingly, when she crossed the finish line, she didn’t ever appear to be that winded or tired.  The news reporters flocked to her, completely ignoring the second place finisher, Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, much less the third place finisher, Patti Lyons of the United States.  Ruiz was the star.

But is didn’t take long for race officials to discover that there were legitimate reasons that Ruiz was so well-rested . . . she didn’t actually run the whole race!  It turned out that she had dropped out of the race, hopped on the subway, got off about a mile from the finish line, and ran in from there.  Nice!

In essence, she won a victory by changing the standards of the race.  That’s the truth of this passage: “The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.”  “Dishonest scales” means adapting the standard of something to give the illusion that it is accurate.  The result is praise from those on the outside because it appears one has accomplished something impressive.  But the glory is short-lived and the accomplishment is tainted when the light exposes the truth: the accolades were gained through dishonest measures.

It reminds me of the commercials of television that offer college degrees . . . even doctorates . . . with the promise that there is “no study required.”  Nice.  Why would you want a degree that requires no work?  What benefit is a piece of paper when no new knowledge, skill, or expertise has been acquired?  That, in my opinion, is a quintessential example of “dishonest scales.”

Rosie may have won a trophy and received international acclaim, but her dishonesty stamped her name upon the annals of history in a way I doubt she had ever dreamed of.  She is forever remembered as one of the most elaborate and pathetic cheaters to ever attempt any sport of any kind.  Winning the race by changing the standard left her with nothing more than a hollow victory followed by a lifetime of shame.

Maybe that’s why God has warned us against changing the standards of right and wrong in our lives.  It happens in classrooms.  It happens in warehouses.  It happens in relationships.  The opportunities to “adapt” the standard are abundant, offering to us an easier path and seemingly a much more quickly acquired medal.  But we must remember that light will always expose darkness.  It’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”  I live by this adage and often counsel discouraged students to simply wait situations out because truth will always win out.  It’s only a matter of time.

In Rosie’s case, the time was short.  Soon, the real winner,  Jacqueline Gareau, was crowned and the actual second-place finisher, Patti Lyons, was finally recognized as having set a new American record.  Sure, Rosie’s story may have dominated the headlines, but the real winners still went home with their medals.  

Truth always wins out.  We might as well embrace it now before it exposes us later.  So skip the subway and keep running; you may not win, but you’ll at least cross the finish line with honor.


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