Friday, 26 May 2017
The Book of Job in the Bible depicts a righteous man who is overcome by misfortune.
His herds are destroyed, his children are killed, and his body is afflicted with sores.
The reaction of his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar is that Job must have sinned for God to punish him so severely.
Even young Elihu condemns Job.
But Job maintains his righteousness.
From the beginning it is revealed that the afflictions came not from God but from Satan.
Satan is jealous of Job's righteousness and petitions God to test Job's faith.
This situation parallels what happens in the world today.
If someone is in trouble or misfortune has befallen him or her people's reaction is that it is their own fault.
I'm O.K. so what have you done wrong?
But in the end God justifies Job.
"'for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.'" Job 42:7b (NRSV)
And Job's prosperity is restored.
This metaphorical tale is included in the Bible in order to refute Prosperity Theology.
Prosperity Theology claims that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked on earth.
But there is little evidence, either then or now, that this is the case.
"'Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their children are established in their presence, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.'" Job 21:7-9 (NRSV)
So if God does not reward the righteous and punish the wicked on earth what does He do?
Some say that our actions on earth will be judged after death and we will experience Heaven or Hell.
But I say that the concept of Natural Justice which underpins these ideas is a human construct.
God punishes no one.
He knows the reasons why people act wickedly - out of ignorance, out of fear.
And He forgives them.
God is good.
"The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish." 2 Peter 3:9 (NRSV)
So we must endure suffering and forgive.
And pray for our oppressors to have a change of heart.
[Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.]
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