Job 20-21

I beg to differ!

“The truth is that the wicked live to a good old age. They grow old and wealthy. They live to see their children grow to maturity, and they enjoy their grandchildren. Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them. Job 21:7-9 NLT

Job’s friends have a theology of consequences. Their arguments are based on their belief that Job’s circumstances are the obvious result of his sinful behavior. He is suffering the consequences of a life lived in sin. They take a look at his life and conclude that God must be punishing him. All of their speeches are based on this assumption. And the truth is, we can easily find ourselves doing the same thing. When we see someone suffering, we can easily jump to the conclusion that they have done something wrong and are being punished by God in some way. Many of us have the same you-reap-what-you-sow mentality. It creeps into our thinking and influences our views on life. For instance, if something negative happens in our day, we can quickly find ourselves asking the question, “What did I do wrong?” We can easily assume that we are suffering the consequences for some past action or thought. God must be punishing us for something we’ve done. And, if we’re not careful, we can just as easily view the sufferings or trials of others in the same way.

But Job points a very logical argument against this sin-has-consequences theology. He asks his accusers to take a look at the world around them and explain why it is that most wicked people don’t ever suffer the way Job has. In fact, they seem to thrive. Job points out that they tend to grow old and rich, and their kids grow up to enjoy the wealth they leave behind. From all appearances, there doesn’t seem to be any punishment from God on their lives. In spite of the fact that they tell God, “Go away. We want no part of you and your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us if we pray?” (Job 21:14-15 (NLT). These people don’t fear and respect God, but they don’t seem to suffer for it. Job knows his accusers well. He answers their objection before they have a chance. He knows they will say that while the wicked may not suffer in this life, their children will. God will punish their children for their sinful lives. But Job responds, “‘Well,’ you say, ‘at least God will punish their children!’ But I say that God should punish the ones who sin, not their children! Let them feel their own penalty” (Job 21:19-20 NLT).

You see, Job understood that life is not always easily explainable. We don’t know why some suffer and others do not. We don’t know why a massive earthquake strikes the island of Haiti and nowhere else. Sure, we can explain it geologically, but not theologically. We don’t know why one person suffers from cancer while another doesn’t. We don’t know why one couple loses their child in a car accident while another’s grows up and lives a long life. There are things we do not know. There are mysteries to life that we can’t explain. That is where faith comes in. That is where trust in a holy, mighty, all-knowing God comes in. Rather than turning to our conclusions, we must turn to Him. Even God Himself reminds us, “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT). Job even asks his friends the question, “But who can teach a lesson to God, the supreme Judge?” (Job 21:22 NLT). Can we tell God how to run the world? Can we make assumptions about how God works? Can we judge based on circumstances and build an entire theology about God? We can, but we probably shouldn’t. Because we don’t know. And neither did Job’s friends. So rather than jump to conclusions about Job’s guilt, they should have stood by his side offering words of support, encouraging him to trust God, whether he ever understood what was going on or not. Because God’s ways are far beyond anything any of us could ever understand. But He can always be trusted.

Father, forgive me for reaching conclusion about You that are based solely on conjecture and poor conclusions based on consequences and nothing more. You are inexplicable and Your ways are always unquestionably right and good. Help me to look for You in any and all circumstances of life. Help me to see the good You are bringing about in my life and the lives of others – in spite of what I may see initially. Your ways are not my ways. Your plans are beyond me knowing and understanding, but they are always right and true. Thank You for that reminder and assurance. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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