Reflection: Beware the 'Friends of Job'. Follow the Lord Who Never Sleeps Nor Slumbers
The Book of Job is one of the treasures of the Bible. It reveals a truth about authentic spirituality to every age
These "friends of Job" seem to be everywhere these days. They fill the pulpits of some of Americas fastest growing "mega churches". They flood our airwaves with their claims of health, wealth, prosperity and blessing for those who "really" get the Gospel, at least the Gospel they preach
This is a troubling and difficult time for so many people. Over and over again, I have heard the sad stories of financial setbacks, as the U.S. economy has seemingly lost all of its steam and people are watching their retirement funds, their homes and their savings vanish. When we look around us it seems the entire world is "on the brink".
I have seen so much serious illness in the lives of good people whom I love. I -and those whom I love the most - have had relational, emotional and physical struggles on almost every front. Sound familiar? Let's be honest. Life is often difficult. That is the case even when you are praying, being as faithful as you can to Lord and His Church. Pain just seems to be a part of the program.
I have experienced my share of "fair-weather" friends in my life. You know the kind that I mean. They are there with you when everything is flourishing, claiming they "have your back." They love to be there in the picture with you, smiling and enjoying identification with someone who is perceived as "successful", whether it is on the financial, career or even the "spiritual" front. However, when the storms come and the leaves begin to fall, when the difficulties of life throw a proverbial "wrench" in the works, they are quickly gone, having dropped you, as they say "like a bad habit."
It is only in these, my later years, that I have begun to understand there is an even worse kind of false "friend". These are the ones I refer to as the "friends of Job". I believe that most of us have experienced them. The sooner we come to understand the danger that their false teaching poses, the happier we will all be. These are the folks who claim to have somehow "figured God out" as though the Christian life were some kind of puzzle.
They act as though following the Lord involves living out a formula. They fail to speak of the fact that those who embrace His way will walk, as He did, along a rugged road. After all, we follow in the footsteps of a Savior who's greatest act of Love, His self giving embrace of death on a Cross, was deemed by most who witnessed it to be His complete failure.
These "friends of Job" seem to be everywhere these days. They fill the pulpits of some of Americas fastest growing "mega churches". They flood our airwaves with their claims of health, wealth, prosperity and blessing for those who "really" get the Gospel, at least the Gospel they preach. Sometimes it is what St Paul warned of as "another gospel" (Gal. 1:6), which reduces our walk with God to following a formula. These "friends of Job" are quick to wrongly judge when difficulties come into the lives of good people, as they inevitably will.
The Book of Job is one of the treasures of the Bible. It reveals a truth about authentic spirituality to every age. The background of the Book is a dispute between Satan, whom the New Testament rightly refers to as the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10), and God. Satan contends that Job served God for what He got from Him not for who God is. How rampant is this kind of self interested service of God in some of the Christian circles in our own time? How many self styled teachers seek to reduce Christian living to formulas?
At the beginning of this book we find the mystery of true faith. After his own wife told him to "curse God and die" Job spoke these words of caution and then wisdom, "Are even you going to speak as senseless women do? We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:10) In the midst of his discourse with three friends, he added the following acclamation which gets to the heart of the mettle of this man named Job, ".even if he slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15)
These words were spoken to the self professed "experts" who had come to tell him how he could get out of the mess if he just followed their formulaic approach to religious living. They need to be shouted in some places in our own day. Job was fully surrendered to God. He refused to turn God into an object for His own use. He grasped the true mystery of a faith that really saves.
When we first encounter the "friends of Job" at the beginning of the Book they seem empathetic, tearing their cloaks, weeping and even spending a week with him in his anguish. But, their feigned compassion ends all too soon. They have something to tell Job, that is why they really came to be with him. They were not "compassionate", in the Biblical sense. The ancient words in Hebrew and Greek ...
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