Friday, August 7, 2009

The Spirit of Job

Throughout the Old Testament, we find many stories of heroics acts and deeds but we almost never find any real heroes.  Everyone in the Bible comes short of fitting the mold of a perfect hero, where even the greatest man, David, committed adultery and murder.  Job, an obscure tale, is no exception.  He was a man of great wealth, good health, and a large family.  All of this was taken away in a few fell swoops and he was left to sit among trash with little clothing and covered in sores.

His friends come to him and when they see him at a distance, they cry out in sadness and lament the plight of their good friend.  When they reach him, they sit down next to him in silence for seven days.  After this, they engage in a discussion which involves the reasons behind Job’s current condition.  This is where the book picks up.  Usually, in Sunday school or during a sermon, you are told the beginning of the story and maybe the end.  This was humorously portrayed in the show South Park where, upon hearing the beginning from his parents, Kyle commented, “That’s a horrible story.  Why would God destroy a man’s life just to prove a point to Satan?”

But that misses the whole point of the book.  The beginning is a mere introduction to one of the most basic theological discussions that people have struggled with over the centuries.  It is the question of why horrible things happen to good people.  After all, if we are obedient to God, follow after Him and seek His salvation through Jesus, would God not stay his wrath against us?  In truth, He does do this to all of us, because He has reserved judgment until after our death.  But that does not mean, as Job found out, that He does not allow the enemy to mess with us.  Also, the hearts of men are by nature sinful and thus they will cause calamity on others as well.

The dialogues between Job and his friends make up most of the book.  It starts off with Job lamenting his condition and wishing he was dead.  His friends respond by saying that Job has sinned and that this is the reason for Job’s plight.  Job responds by stating that he has done nothing wrong and that he must make his case before God.  He believes that God has ignored Job’s own righteousness and at the same time agrees with his friends that God reserves such judgments for the wicked.  The debate continues back and forth between Job and each of his friends until Job adamantly declares that he has committed no sins.

Job and his friends fail, however, to address the premise of their arguments, that is that God always rewards the righteous and curses the wicked.  This is a lie that is used by the Enemy to further break the faith of the loyal followers of God.  After all, if bad things happen to good people who believe such a lie, then they will lose their faith.  Job very nearly does it seems, although he eventually gets a humbling audience with God.  God loves you and cares about you, but at the same time, we are all subject to the calamities of this world.  While His power can protect us, and He will protect us at times, this is probably a rare occurrence in our lives.  Miracles would not be miracles if they were common, after all.

This is the spirit that permeates much of Christianity and many cults and non-believers.  That if you obey God or follow him, disaster and destruction will always be averted in your life.  Atheists use that reason to cause us to question our faith, I have heard that Jehovah’s Witness followers tend to claim that happiness comes from following God.  I am sure that there are many churches that try and ride the emotional high you get from praising God claim this theology as well.  Televangelist are notorious for the prosperity theology that we all hear about.

These are lies.  While everything we have is allowed by God, because He has the power to take it away, that does not mean that it was given to us by God because of our supposed righteousness.  God gives to each of us on a case-by-case basis as part of His divine plan that is too complex for even His angels to fully comprehend.  It is hard to accept and it is a trap that I find myself falling for as well, so we must always be aware of the falsehood of prosperity theology.