Job was a righteous man the Book of Job says in the opening chapter and verse. (Job 1:1) But was he really? It seems that Job was very well regarded in his community, taking a prominent place (at the gate where the wise men sat). Job thought he was righteous and believed that everyone saw him that way too: as a righteous man above reproach. (Job 32:7-17)
Job was also a very wealthy man. He had a large family. He was proud of his good fortune, which he believed was the result of his righteous living. He even offered sacrifices for his children in case they sinned. (Job 1:5) Job may have been one of those people who think their children are perfect; but just in case they sinned, he wanted to get a jump on it.
Before Job’s world is turned upside down, he might have been the kind of person who lives in a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. The kind of person who has a perfect wife and perfect children who got good grades, and got along with each other and always did the right things in their parents’ eyes.
Job may have been the kind of person who followed the rules and listened to his parents and other authorities growing up. He was a probably a disciplined athlete who followed his coaches’ direction and was the kind of student teachers love. If we were alive today, he would have gone to a good college and gotten a good job. He wouldn’t smoke or drink. He would go to church on Sunday and would live a good and secure life.
Job was probably the envy of all who knew him, and he might have been insufferable because of it. It seems Job was righteous, at least compared to others. He was also righteous in his own eyes. As a result, Job viewed the world through the lens of his own self-righteousness.
Job viewed the world through the lens of his own self-righteousness
Job reminds me of the kind of person who was good and proud of it. Job believed that his goodness was the source of all the good things he accomplished and acquired in his life. Job believed in God, of course, like a good Catholic or Protestant Christian. Job would have been a good American, a self-made man, equal parts proud of good living and proud of the wisdom of his belief in God. He might have been a proud patriot too, if he was alive today.
Scripture is clear, however, that no man is righteous before God. (Romans 3:10) None! Job may have been righteous compared to other people, but no one can stand up to God on his own merit.
Jesus eliminated all doubt on the subject when he said, “No one is good but God.” (Mark 10:18) To bring that point home, Jesus challenged the holy men of his day (men like Job) saying: it’s not enough to refrain from murder – you sin when you are angry at your brother, insult him and call him a fool (Matt. 5:21-22); and it’s not enough to refrain from committing the act of adultery – you commit adultery in your heart when you lust after a woman (Matt. 5:27-28).
Then Jesus really got down to the bottom line: if you really want to be good, then don’t just be just (Matt. 5:38) – be merciful and gracious and loving:
“[I]f anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:39-42)
If you really want to be good, then don’t just love your family, friends and people who are good 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. 5:44-48)
The statement in the first chapter and verse of Job, then, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It isn’t true. It can’t be true, because we know that no man is righteous before God, but that statement sets the stage for the entire Book of Job. Maybe it isn’t meant to be taken as true. Maybe it is meant to clue us into the way Job viewed himself.
(In other articles I take that statement more seriously, because God said it, but I think, ultimately, there is some truth to the notion that Job was righteous compared to other people. Certainly, though, his righteousness could not stand up to God’s righteousness.)
Job’s view of himself as a righteous man colored Job’s view of the world. His belief that he was righteous defined who he thought he was. He attributed all of his success to it.
As we will see in the next blog post, Job viewed others through the lens of his own self-righteousness. We see this in his friends the mirror in the advice they gave to to Job the mirror image of the advice Job had given others.
Now that the tables were turned, Job and his friends would come to realize how cold and hollow that advice really is, and they would come to see God in a different way.
We tend to think that all of the misfortunes of other people are brought on by their own bad decisions, bad actions and bad living, but that isn’t always the case. We tend to think our good fortunes are the result of our good decisions, good actions and good living, but that isn’t necessarily true either.
I will pick this up and carry it forward in Job: When the Tables Are Turned Part 2.