The story of Job is a lesson in the way we should view ourselves, others and God. I wrote in Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 1 how Job was viewed by others and how job viewed himself – as a righteous man. We know, though, that no one is really righteous, at least when compared with the perfection of God.
Who hasn’t gotten angry with other people, insulted them and called them fools? Who hasn’t lusted after a woman or man who was not your spouse? Who hasn’t lied, cheated, or acted/reacted out of jealousy, spite or pride? Who has observed every law, all of the time, even when no one is looking?
We can’t boast of being perfect because no one is perfect. (Romans 3:20) We don’t even have a good idea of what perfect means.
Jesus said being perfect means turning the other cheek, offering our coat to the person who asks for our shirt, going two miles when someone forces you to go one, giving to all who beg from you and loaning to all who ask to borrow. (Matt. 5:39-42) Jesus said that being perfect means loving our enemies! (Matt. 4:43)
It’s not enough to love our friends, family and people who are good to us. Being perfect as God is perfect means loving our enemies and praying even for those who persecute us. (Matt. 5:44)
Thus, when the Book of Job says he was a righteous man, we need to understand that Job was righteous compared to others, and Job viewed himself as righteous. That view was even at the core of his identity, but Job certainly wasn’t righteous like God is righteous.
Job’s view of himself colored the way he saw himself, other people and God. He thought more highly of himself than he should have, and he looked down on others. He believed that his good fortunes were the result of his good living, and he was convinced that the misfortunes of other people were brought upon themselves by their own failure to be righteous.
Job believed that God rewarded good living with good things, like a worker earns his wages. His friends believed that too, as we see it in their responses to Job and their attempts to “counsel” him.
In fact, the way Job’s friends respond to him implies that they were mirroring to Job similar advice Job had given to others in the past. For instance, Eliphaz, the first to speak, asked Job, “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking?” (Job 4:1)
These words smack of being rhetorical. Eliphaz knew Job would be impatient with him, but he was going to speak anyway. A clue regarding why Job’s friend responds this way to him is found in the next verses.
“Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? ‘Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?'” (Job 4:3-7 ESV)
From these verses we learn that Job was known for the “advice” he gave to others in their distress. When Eliphaz tells Job to remember, I believe he is reminding Job of the very things Job had said to others in their distress.
Now, however, the tables were turned. Job was no longer in the superior position of fortune, privilege and ease. Job had lost everything – his wealth, his house, his children and his health.
After bearing up under his misfortune for a time, Joseph began to complain bitterly. Now that he was no longer on top of the world, his attitude had changed. When he insisted that God respond to him, he was testing the theological view he always had held – that good things come to those who are righteous.