The Book of Job poses one of the great questions in the Bible
or anywhere else (here placed on the lips of the satan!): Is it for nothing
that I/we worship God? What’s in it for me? When things go along smoothly and
I prosper, is my love of God really unselfish? Or is it love of myself, disguised
as love of God? What does it mean to love God, anyway?
The question of Job 1:9 gives rise to many personal questions about
human motives and lifestyles.
No Answers to Multiple Choices
The Book of Job doesn’t hold the answer(s) to this question.
But the author of the book has set me thinking. Only I can give the answer,
as honestly as I can.
The author has given me all the options that he knew. He knew nothing
of a future life. He thought that when people died, they went to Sheol or the
nether world, not a place of punishment, but of bare existence where there was
no loving contact with God. So the relationship of Job (or anyone else)
with God was restricted to this world.
In Job’s day, people interpreted their good fortune as God’s
favor, but their suffering as God’s anger. True, this is not a sound way of
judging, but don’t we hear something like it when a person says, as if to explain
hard luck, “I’m having my purgatory now”? Do we judge God according to the proportion
of good and bad things that occur, the pluses and minuses of life?
Why, Oh Why?
As we read on, we discover Job arguing with God, complaining
of his troubles. (Remember, Job was not aware of the conversation between God
and the satan in Job 1:6-12, in which the plot of the Book of Job is set up
between God and the adversary.) Job doesn’t curse, but he comes close. Yet he
never gives up: “Slay me though he might, I will wait for him; I will defend
my conduct before him” (13:15).
Job is not “patient.” That is a misleading interpretation. Rather,
he is steadfast and persevering, as James observes (5:11). Maybe the satan was
mistaken about him.
When the Lord finally speaks, Job is approved and even restored
(Job 38:1—42:17). But he is not given a tidy answer to his
suffering. The Lord describes, with probing questions, the
mysteries of creation within which all of us live. The greatest
mystery is suffering, which is also the theme of the Servant
in Isaiah 53 and is addressed in the words of Jesus in Luke
9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
What answer would you give to that question of the satan?
Why do you “love” God? If you do, is it a fairly disinterested, selfless love?
How do you compare it with the other “loves” in your life?
Did you ever stop to get at the meaning of your love for God or
for anyone else—even your love for yourself?
This question posed in the Book of Job’s first chapter remains as
a challenge for every human being.