Job 4

You must have done something…

Job’s first friend Eliphaz starts to speak… Chapter 4 is only half his comments…

He’s introduced pretty amusingly saying, essentially, ‘I guess you don’t want to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway.’ Empathy maybe isn’t his strong suit, though I suppose Job has been so extremely miserable, perhaps his tentativeness displays sensitivity.

His opening message is for Job to take some of his own medicine. He’s been a great encourager of the weak and the stumblers, can’t Job now encourage himself?

Then Eliphaz recounts a dream/vision, wonderfully vivid, from a floating spirit in the dead of night that made his hair stand on end. The message seems reasonable in its way: can man be more holy, more righteous than his creator, God?

Two quite normal godly responses in their way, if not exactly helpful. But between these two observations he slips the real killer: does God really do this to innocent people? People reap what they sow, don’t they?

The threads weave together into a knot of victim blaming: you must have done something. Or you’d get past this. Are you sure you’re so righteous?

It’s so easy for Christian teaching to lead there. We’re supposed to have faith and pray, so if we aren’t healed, don’t get rich or happy, we must have lacked faith. Still happens all the time.

And in pastor Ray’s application of it to indigenous people, yes, totally.

I think part of it is that we often can’t process injustice, either random or caused by inequality. It ruins our day. Stains the pretty picture.

We’re good at helping. A transaction where someone needs something and we can supply it. Much harder to live with problems that hang around, and can’t be helped.

Man naturally believes in God, perhaps that isn’t what we need scriptures for. Maybe this is the core message of the Bible: shit happens. Maybe it all flows from that, the fall, the redemption. Maybe heaven won’t be objectively ‘perfect’ just subjectively, because we will finally understand this truth.

Well maybe not. But the centrality of Job to the human experience is rather wonderful so far. I expected more straw man type arguments. But I relate to Eliphaz, it’s helpful. I already feel better about being depressed, which is a step closer to not being depressed. Bring on the second half of Eliphaz’s argument.

One thought on “Job 4

  1. That is one of the brilliant things about Job. The usual human arguments to explain suffering are articulated with great skill by the friends. They are put much better than I can put them. So we know these arguments are heard and deeply understood and, as things develop, refuted. And this is helpful to me not so much because I apply them to others – I think I have been taught not to – but I apply them to myself. I can remember very clearly explaining a personal tragedy by recalling my own behaviour and wondering if God was using it to discipline me to behave better.

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