Passage: Job 4-5 I am not going to quote the whole text today since it is lengthy but if you want to read it first, click the reference above. Rather, I am going to summarize and paraphrase what Eliphaz is telling Job in modern language:
Look, dude, I know you are speaking out of grief and exhaustion so you aren’t thinking clearly. But I am going to correct you anyway for your own good because I’m just such a good friend to have your best interests at heart and know what is good for you better than you do. You are so far off base in proclaiming your innocence. If your piety and integrity were all they were cracked up to be, these things wouldn’t be happening to you. Innocent, honest people don’t suffer. Therefore, be honest and admit your sin. You are not ‘”all that!” It’s obvious to everyone else that you have sown some hidden evil in spite of your reputation and appearance of righteousness and now you are reaping the consequences.
But GOD gave me a private “Word” just for you (aren’t you so lucky to have a friend like me who has an “in” with the Almighty to give you such insight from the mouth of GOD Himself? Not everyone has a friend who hears from the LORD like this so listen up!)
Here it is: You are not as righteous and pure as you think you are. You can’t fool GOD. He knows the secret sin you will not admit and it will be your undoing. Your only hope is to cry out to GOD for forgiveness. Accept His correction and discipline and let HIm save you from yourself, for He has allowed this for your correction. But, He will also heal and restore you if you humble yourself before Him and confess your sin. Then you will see prosperity again, be restored to safety and security once more.
Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. Check it out for yourself — you know it’s true. Just repent already and all will be well again.
Like all Christian platitude and Christianese script, the problem with this speech is that out of context, it has much Truth tucked into it. Sinners do reap painful consequences. God does see it all and still forgive. A sinner’s best hope is to cry out to GOD for forgiveness; and GOD will forgive and heal. That makes it difficult to argue or disagree with the well-meaning advice giver without appearing lacking in grace and humility or rebellious and heretical toward GOD. Unless you realize that the application of that Truth is resting on a very faulty premise or assumption and therefore, is misapplied.
The faulty assumption is that bad things never happen to good people, that righteous living is by definition some kind of Murphy repellent and that if you are experiencing trouble in your life, it is a punishment from GOD or the consequence or evidence of sin in your life. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it just isn’t so.
Eliphaz was the prototype for the platitude-spouting, “all-wise” Christian who doles out useless advice and guilt to the suffering as a “Word from the LORD” without actually asking GOD’s opinion of the matter. They assume they possess a greater innocence and spiritual maturity because of their lack of trouble or at least, their lack of whatever specific trouble the sufferer is experiencing; and that said “greatness” qualifies them to advise the “unfortunate sinner” of their own supposedly higher understanding that, they believe, certifies them to stand in GOD’s stead and prescribe the solution. They make themselves out to be higher than the sufferer, in a position of power to be listened to and heeded as “great and wise,” when they are not necessarily so.
They presume their voice to be the “Voice of GOD” to cut down to size someone who they think thinks too highly of themselves and to prove that they are just as flawed and human as the next person. They consider it their bounden duty and assigned purpose in life to pull down the “sinner” and make them face the “reality” of their sin; and expect great praise and adulation for their “great wisdom.” They want to pull the sinner down to raise themselves up. (although they have their “good intentions” all worked out in their mind so do not see themselves that way. They think they are doing someone a favor, trying to help.) They accuse the “sinner” of sanctimonious pride without evidence while actively committing this exact sin in how they treat the sufferer.
As I said before, however, the problem is, this foundational assumption is seven kinds of wrong, so to speak! Jesus made it clear in Luke 13:2-5 that tragedy and misfortune are not directly correlated to sin and judgment nor an excuse to assume a superior innocence of those who are not experiencing or have not experienced a particular trial or difficulty, pain or suffering. Suffering does not always happen as a result of sin. Yes, sin always produces suffering of one kind or another but you cannot reason in reverse that any and all suffering is caused by the presence of sin in the sufferer’s heart.
Suffering is a symptom that could point to many causes so you cannot irrefutably diagnose a sin problem on the basis of the fact that someone is undergoing difficult circumstances that cause grief and suffering–physical, mental, emotional or financial. But the problem of people trying to make a two-way truism or definition out of it has not changed in thousands of years.
The problem here–besides the pride, arrogance and lack of true love — is that people like this alienate believers and unbelievers alike from the fellowship of the Body of Christ. They expect to wave their platitudes like a magic wand, receive the gratitude and adulation to which they feel they are due; and for the platitudes to magically solve everything, make the humanity of the situation go away and stop demanding deeper attention and real involvement and relationship. They want the easy answer to whitewash and sugarcoat the whole situation so it doesn’t niggle at their conscience that they really are not doing anything to help and are just stiff-arming the suffering person to avoid real involvement. (even if they have it all justified inside a web of good intentions, token “help” and bandaids that don’t really help in the long run and misapplied Scripture).
They expect and hope the platitudes will bring about a blissful, peaceful perfection and happily ever after ending. They want it all neat and perfect and tied up with a pretty bow with no messy emotion or disagreement or alternate viewpoints. But life does not come in pristinely wrapped gift boxes. Life is messy — sometimes things happen that are not pretty but I have to process, learn and keep moving forward, whether the bad things are my fault or not!
It is not helpful, however, to believe the misleading guilt trips of those who would be the “Voice of GOD” without actually consulting GOD, but relying on their own assumptions and manmade “wisdom” in giving advice and their version of “help.” It is not helpful to take to heart the insinuations that if I have troubles or if my troubles and emotions do not instantly evaporate in the “glorious light” of platitude and Christianese script, that I am somehow “less”– less Christian, less faithful, less worthy, less capable.
GOD allows these troubles to shape and mold my faith, to carve away the dross and bring me closer to Him. If there is sin, He will bring it to my attention and lead me to repentance, which, of course, is the proper response. But, there is no causal relationship between my sin and my suffering. Yes, of course, I am a sinner, but my suffering is not a punishment from GOD because of it, nor a direct result of it. I live in a broken world. I suffer as a result of everything being out of whack with GOD’s intended design, including broken people whose sin affects me whether I am doing right or wrong in the sight of the LORD.
I can only fix myself — with GOD’s help — but all trouble will not disappear because I repent and do right because I cannot make anyone else do right; and their wrong choices can hurt me. Even when I sin and experience the painful consequences, it is not helpful to listen to the voices of discouragement and guilt (esp. those that masquerade as “encouragers”) and wallow in the hopelessness of my sin. No — GOD does not want me to dwell there or feel “less” — just repent, get up, turn around and keep walking toward Him. “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
He makes it simple and welcoming, while the self-appointed impostor “Voices of GOD” want to complicate things and make it difficult, convince me of my unworthiness, make me grovel around in guilt, begging for the “gift” of their “help” and “wisdom.” This is NOT GOD’s way — and those who perpetuate this upon the church and the unchurched, believers and unbelievers will be answerable to GOD one day for hanging great burdens around the necks of others that they are not willing to carry themselves. (Matthew 23:2-5, Acts 15:10)
Thank You that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. Help me to hear only Your True Voice and not my own nor succumb to the guilt tactics of those who would control me or bring me down through accusation and insinuation of sin where none exists. Although, show me the way to repentance for any true sin in my mind and heart. Let me not be the sanctimonious judge and “advisor” for anyone else either, but guard my heart, mind, and tongue that every thought, word and deed would uplift and encourage to Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed, for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12