Unquestionable Character: A 21-day Study in Stewardship.

Proud Dishonesty

Israel's increasing prosperity leads to increasing unfaithfulness to God. Moses had warned God's people about the spiritual dangers of amassing wealth (see Dt 8:11-14). Just like their ancestor Jacob, the Israelites had forgotten God. In Hosea 12:3-6 Israel and Judah are called to come back to God, to wrestle as Jacob had and to 'return to [their] God; maintain love and justice, and wait for [their] God always' (Hos 12:6).
Then comes the indictment of the 'merchant,' a wordplay on 'Canaan'; the Hebrew word for merchant sounds like Canaan. The people have lied and cheated in order to become wealthy: 'The merchant uses dishonest scales' (Hos 12:7). God's abhorrence of this ethic is evident throughout Scripture (see especially Lev 19:35; Pr 11:1), particularly because it tends to harm those who can least afford it, the poor (see Am 8:5-6).
Then, not only do Judah and Israel cheat to become wealth, but they boast about it. The New International Bible Commentary explains Hosea 12:8: 'Ephraim makes the dubious claims that the end justifies the means, with the tacit erroneous assumption that wealth must be the final proof of divine approval.' The people of Israel were not the last to think that their material success was proof of God's favor. It is an attitude that survives today. Lecturer Chris Park elaborates:

Material success is not a guarantee of righteousness. Some people argue that if material prosperity is a blessing from God, surely those who are wealthy and successful must be righteous because they have been blessed by God. But this isn't the case. To use material prosperity as a measure of God's faithfulness to a person or people is to misunderstand the nature of his blessing. Not all wealth or all possessions are gained by fair or righteous means. In some cases wealth might derive from oppression and exploitation, which God regards as sins. There is obviously no way that God will condone wealth won in a bank robbery, won by corruption, or won by selling the products of slave labour.

So although the Old Testament says that God gives prosperity to the righteous (for example in Psalm 37:3-4), it denies the opposite - that wealth and prosperity always indicated righteousness.

There are probably not many Christians who rob banks or sell slaves, but the principle is the same for padding an expense account or not giving a day's work for a day's pay.
Ironically, Judah and Israel did not deceive God as much as they deceived themselves. Pastor and author George MacDonald says, 'Friends, if we be honest with ourselves, we shall be honest with each other.'