Thursday, September 9, 2010

If it's good enough for Job . . . or why God doesn't do Karma

Today, we are looking at a passage from Job 31, part of the daily lectionary for today. The lectionary can be found here:
Job is an interesting book and an interesting story in the Bible.  Despite that I think most people tend to ignore it for the most part - including churches, educators and pastors.  We know the basic story or at least parts of it: Job is a good guy, God and the Devil have a bet that Job only is good because God has blessed him with good things.  So God allows the Devil to take away everything has except his life.  Job, despite losing everything, never turns on or from God, despite repeated advice to do just that from several people including his close friends.  God eventually restores rich and plentiful blessing to Job.
So in reading today's passage from Job, chapter 31, I think it finally occurred to me why we leave Job alone completely or at best keep the story at a distance:  I suspect that we are at least a little nervous that if we spent much time reading or thinking about Job and his story that we too (just like his Job's friends) would think Job would be best served to turn his back on God.  I think that we don't want to spend too much time thinking about why God allows the Devil to torment Job and it is easier to just ignore it.
Chapter 31 is all about Job continuing this long discourse about his situation and about his fear in standing before God.  In the discourse he names all of these things that he either has or hasn't done: he HAS cared for the orphan and the poor (side note: I love the way he words it in v. 17 'or have I eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan not eaten from it' - the point being that even if all you have is a 'morsel' there is a responsibility to share with those that don't have even that!).  He HASN'T looked lustfully at other women.  He HAS heard the concerns of his servants and responded to them.
He goes on and on, but the point is, the chapter - and really his whole discourse - confirms our worst fears about the story of Job.  At that is that Job is a really good guy.  More than that Job is a really Godly guy.  He has his priorities straight.  He knows that he is blessed and uses those blessings to bless those around him, always giving thanks for the both the blessings and the opportunity to share them.
In short, if there was ever a guy that deserved a good life and nice things, Job is it.  And then God goes and allows the Devil to take all of those nice things away, to take all of the things and people Job loves away.  And we ask why?  And we also ask why Job doesn't turn on God - and that is perhaps the real mystery, right?
I think the first question isn't the important one.  But the second question (why Job doesn't fault or turn from God) is critical to understanding the story and to understanding what it means for us.  I think Job never turns from God, or resents God or blames God because he has a proper sense of perspective.  He understands one simple truth, a truth that it is so easy for us to forget: as long as we have life we are blessed.  Job knew and somehow through all of the hardship he endured was able to continue understanding that life isn't fair - but God has tilted the scales not against us, but in our favor.  Life is not fair, which is a good thing because if it was, none of us - not even Job - would stack up to the judgment.  And getting 'what we deserve' would be an unhappy occurrence for all of this.
In his discourse Job lists all the things that he has or hasn't done - I challenge you to read through it and see if you can place your check mark on the correct side for every single one (who can say they have never missed an opportunity to serve or share, etc.?).  Job's point is that if you have fallen short in any of these areas, then fear is the only appropriate response when you come before God - because you have fallen short of the law and the call of God and judgment (harsh and final) is what is appropriately coming to you.
So in the midst of all that he endured Job understood that he didn't want what he 'deserved' and was happy instead to thank God for the blessings that he had received - even when the only one that he could count was that - even though it was painful and miserable - he still had his life.
So the lesson from Job is all about the perspective with which we view the circumstances of our lives.  And I think what Job is trying to teach us is that when we say, 'Life isn't fair'  that our next words should be 'and thank God for that'.  Because we - none of us - can stand up to a 'fair' judgment of our lives, thoughts, actions and motivations.  Instead all of us have to rely on the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ tipping the scales in our favor.
Life isn't fair.  Thank God for that!

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