After Job gets smashed in the opening chapter of his namesake, many people who are familiar with the Bible know what comes thereafter — the lengthy discourse between Job and his good friends about why Job is dealt this terrible hand. I believe this portion of the Bible is skipped, and then misquoted and misunderstood, more than any other.
In the opening scene, Job laments (ch. 3) and curses his very existence, which is completely understandable. The guy lost all of his family and his stuff, and now he’s sitting in ashes and covered in boils. Like a true friend, Eliphaz begins trying to fix the problem — and while what he says might be true of the matter, he takes the wrong approach. He didn’t even go to CVS; he just starts yakking away. His cohorts will join in soon afterward.
There is a common misconception among Christians today: that if someone is suffering, they must be in sin. Obviously, sin will eat you from the inside out, but suffering isn’t always an indicator of sin — the Bible, especially several parts of the Old Testament, testify that suffering falls upon the righteous and the evil alike.
Job’s buddy Eliphaz falls into the category of buying into this logic, constantly questioning Job’s integrity, and even suggesting a mediator because he believes Job isn’t in a position to approach God in his decrepit state.
The reader recognizes that Job is righteous, that this circumstance is beyond himself. And we as readers should recognize that sometimes suffering and calamity is beyond ourselves, that we have only to turn to God in a time of disaster to sharpen and strengthen us. As I’ve said many times in this blog, Christians are often overtly resistant to correction. We avoid even being perceived as wrong or in error to preserve our reputation.
And this brings me to my core point: Job, despite his obvious position of righteousness before God, is willing to take correction. And this is one suggestion that Eliphaz gets right:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole.
I’ve perceived that a lot of Christians don’t like being told they’re wrong. They don’t even like being told to change — at all. And this troubles me, because it indicates our hearts are hard, and that our whole desire is to stand stout in our own perceived righteousness and shun anyone that attempts to contest us.
Fittingly, my pastor taught out of a passage yesterday that reflects this sentiment:
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Let’s begin today by being more like Job. Even in a state of righteousness, we must be teachable. We must remain malleable in order to be formed to resemble the perfect character of God.