Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 3

The world isn’t fair, but the world is designed nevertheless to accomplish the purpose of God.


Job was a “righteous man” (as far as people go), but he wasn’t very sympathetic toward other people going through tough times. We realize this only when his friends mirror the advice to him that he gave to others. (See Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 1) It’s easy to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. It’s easy to be “good” and religious when things are going well. When the tables turn, however, our attitudes and perspectives change. (See Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 2)

The Book of Job is an example that religious people, and good people, generally, sometimes have a hard time sympathizing with people going through tough times. We tend to think that they deserve what they get for making bad decisions, doing bad things or just being unwise.

The truth is, though, that bad things happen to “good” people; and sometimes, “bad” people don’t get what they deserve. Life isn’t fair, as I say often to my children.

Job thought of himself as righteous, and he was righteous – at least more righteous than most. He was proud of his goodness and attributed the good fortune he enjoyed to his moral character and wise living.

Job and his friends looked down on others who suffered hardship, believing that the hardship they suffered was the just fruits of their bad decisions, bad character and lack of wisdom and faithfulness toward God.

Only when the tables turned did Job wake up to the fact that life isn’t fair. He may have been a better man that most or all of the people he knew, but that didn’t prevent calamity from overtaking him. The hollow advice he had given others (live right and all will be well) rang false when the shoe was on the other foot.

Of course, goodness and badness are relative in human terms. We often only think of goodness and badness in human terms, and we fail to appreciate that God’s standard of goodness is on a completely different level than ours.

Jesus made that clear in stating that “only God is good” (Mark 10:38), words that Paul echoed when he said no one is righteous, not a single person. (Romans 3:20)

Again, we have to look to Jesus to understand God’s standard of goodness (perfection). He explained the standard in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus demonstrated that standard in his own life.

Jesus went well beyond the Ten Commandments by directing people to look inward. We don’t satisfy God’s ultimate standard by refraining from murdering people or committing adultery, for instance. That’s only scratching the surface. Perfection requires that we refrain from harboring anger in our hearts towards others, refrain from casting insults and thinking them fools. (Matt. 5:21-26) Perfection means not even looking at another person with lust in our hearts. (Matt. 5:27-28)

Jesus went much, much further still. Perfection isn’t just what we should refrain from doing; perfection is demonstrated in affirmatively loving people. And, it’s not enough merely to love family friends and people good to us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48)

Perfection requires love, the kind of love God demonstrated in Jesus. In Jesus, God emptied Himself of His power, privilege and position to become one of us, and He submitted Himself to the point of laying down His life for our benefit. (Phil. 2:6-8) When Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others (John 15:13), Jesus backed those words by doing exactly that.

Job and his friends had no sympathy for people going through hard times because they thought more highly of themselves than they should have. They thought they were better than they were, and they thought heir goodness (or lack thereof) should result in reward in this life. But it doesn’t. That is the harsh reality.

When the tables were turned on Job, he came to realize that it didn’t matter that he was “better” than others. He became aware that bad things happen to “good” people, and sometimes “bad” people reap good things they don’t appear to deserve. Job and his friends felt comfortable in a world in which they thought they could earn good things with good behavior, and Job is undone when he realizes the world God made doesn’t work like that.

Continue reading “Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 3”

God’s Purpose for Good

Jacob with his sons before the Pharaoh, ceiling fresco by Johann Adam Remele in Joseph Hall, Cistercian Abbey of Bronbach in Reicholzheim near Wertheim, Germany

“But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.'” Genesis 50:19-20 ESV

I have written recently about the verse, Genesis 50:20 (things men might mean for evil God is able to use for good). (See God in the Dark) The message that God can turn the evil that impacts our lives for good is  powerful one. Though we might despair in our circumstances, especially when the evil we experience is caused by people, maybe even people we love, God is ever at work. God is able to redeem our circumstances, and, more importantly, redeem us.

As with any verse in the Bible, though we need to read it in context to understand the fullest, and most complete meaning. Genesis 50:20 was spoken by Joseph in a very specific context, so let’s take a look at that context and mine this well-known verse for some deeper meaning.

Continue reading “God’s Purpose for Good”

Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 3)

The Bible describes an ongoing cosmic conflict. Why the conflict of beings opposing God if He is all-powerful?


I have been blogging on the problem of pain. (See the Introduction, Part 1 and Part 2). This is “the” problem, with a capital “P” for the Christian who maintains, based on biblical revelation, that God is all-powerful and all-good. If God is so powerful, why can’t He stop the evil? If God is so good, why doesn’t He stop the evil? Either God isn’t all-powerful, or He isn’t good, or (ultimately) the God of the Bible doesn’t exist.

I am working my way through the puzzle, putting the pieces in place. You will have to read through the previous posts to catch up (if you want to). The piece of the puzzle I want to explore next is the cosmic drama that is evident in the Scripture.

Jesus refers to the Devil as the ruler of this world. So the Devil most have some authority and jurisdiction over the world. If God is really God, the authority of the Devil to do what he does must have give by God. But why?! If the question isn’t simply rhetorical, there must be a purpose? Why would an all-powerful God allow restraints on His power to allow the rejection, opposition and counter-activity of being He created?

Before I try to answer that question, I want to dive into the evidence of this conflict that we see in the Scripture and look for clues as to why it would be allowed by an all-powerful God.

Continue reading “Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 3)”

The Currents of Evil and Bedrock of Good

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

Good and evil exist in the world. Good and evil can be seen in the same events, like the Orlando shooting. The evil of the shooting played out side by side with the good of the heroic responses by victims, responders, their families and friends and the community that rallied around them.

Good and evil is the timeless subject of stories, and imagination, history and our cultural, political and personal narratives. Most of us like to think of ourselves on the side of good, opposed to evil, however we define those terms. Some of us, only a very few among us, who attempt to uphold a naturalistic view of the world devoid of God or gods, would dare say that good and evil exist only in our wishful thinking. Even they, however, are quick to denounce what they view as evil, belying their assertions that there is no such thing as good (or evil).

Contrary to the way we like to view things, evil does not play along party, idealistic or even religious lines. Evil and the forces of evil are opportunistic and they are everywhere.

Let me explain. Continue reading “The Currents of Evil and Bedrock of Good”

How Can God Judge Good People: Examining the Problem In More Detail

https://www.flickr.com/photos/daynoir/2180510779/in/photolist-4jFFTr-4jKHMd-jWQJXK-odioQr-ocsW2d-odinbH-ocxZSt-g4hBCg-ocE5s6-9bjxyt-8NZVci-8RHoRH-8P41aG-oeUc8U-8NZVcZ-owufDH-ocAr9z-8kEjNt-odx8YU-chcGb-owxMQc-jWQpsn-oe1m1N-8LFfce-ouzTQs-jWR4Hi-osKV4U-jWSQS5-hrLbx1-6utpwj-apBGdk-owEuZp-em3Gxk-oeQ9Rf-9bjxxF-8Vkhtj-8VhsPF-ovviDV-8RHoSc-ou8Fd6-odpLFj-6hLRVK-QKB3p-nzWLGM-osEBRN-DBdANc-ouGvh8-oegftL-oyffAa-hvLNE6
Dayna Mason on Flickr

In a previous blog post, I explained how God is the standard of goodness, and we all fall short of that standard. We have a false view of goodness when we measure ourselves against other people. When we measure ourselves against God, we do not measure up.

And, this is the problem: if God is perfectly good, and there is no bad in Him, we would corrupt Heaven if we entered there. Even the comparatively little bit of bad in the best person would pollute the perfect goodness of God. Just as the physical characteristics of people are virtually indistinguishable 110 stories atop the John Hancock Building, our relative goodness is indistinguishable from the perspective of the perfect goodness of God.

It is not that God would refuse us because of our imperfection; our own corruption (sin) is the problem. As Ezra pined, “Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” (Ezra 9:15) Our own sin keeps us from God; our sin separates us from God. The problem is us, not God.

We can not enter Heaven in our present state, the “place” where God dwells, because whatever “bad” we have in us would prevent us from entering. Like an invisible force field, we could not enter in. Our sin would catch us short.

A discussion of goodness and badness, however, really misses the point altogether. As I have said, “goodness” is defined by God, and only God is God. We are not. That may seem elementary, and it is – in the sense that it is essential to understanding our problem. To understand more completely, we have to go back to the beginning. Continue reading “How Can God Judge Good People: Examining the Problem In More Detail”

How Can God Judge Good People: the Problem

Is goodness the key to getting into heaven?

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

If good people do not believe in God, how can a good God send them to Hell? If God is good, as Christians claim, how can a good God judge good people? This is a perplexing question to many people.

Some of the difficulty comes from the question itself. The question assumes, as frankly most of us do, that goodness is the standard to “get into Heaven”. There certainly is good reason for that assumption. Christians are always talking about sin and morality. So, let’s take a deeper look at. Is that really what is going on?

Continue reading “How Can God Judge Good People: the Problem”