Speaking what’s right of God: thoughts from Job on pride and humility

The Book of Job presents tremendous difficulties to anyone who really wants to understand it. In the prologue, we learn that Job was perfect in God’s sight, but to teach a lesson to Satan, God stripped Job of his wealth, his health, and his children. Three friends come to comfort him, but get into a nasty argument instead. Through it all, we see human pride at its worst.

All of them say things that sound very religious. Without careful study it is hard to pick out the rightness and wrongness of anyone’s comments. Then God shows up. What he says appears to have nothing to do with anything anyone said earlier. Job agrees with him.

“And it came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as my servant Job has'” (Job 42:7, NASB).

How did Job speak what is right? Throughout the dialog, Job and his friends had all been arguing for the correctness of their own thoughts. Each speech implicitly or explicitly makes the claim, “I’m right.” That serves well as a definition of the sin of pride. None of the protagonists, including the upright Job, show a trace of humility.

There is probably only one statement that everyone on earth instantly accepts as true, although only coming from their own mouths: “I’m right.” When anyone gets into an argument, isn’t that the central point that both sides want to make? And doesn’t it implicitly claim, “I might as well be God?”

That is such an easy trap to fall into that between beginning this post and finishing the first draft, I got into a spat with my wife. Twenty years of knowing better, and we can’t stop getting sucked into the same sin over and over.

When God said that Job spoke right of him, he specifically meant these two comments:

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand only mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more” — (Job 40:3-5).

“I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine an be thwarted. ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask you, and you instruct Me.’ I have heard Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes have seen Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” — (Job 42:1-6).

In other words, God did not endorse any of the comments Job made in the heat of controversy, only his repudiation of them. Eliphaz and the others could have humbled themselves the same way, but didn’t. Therefore, God was angry with them for maintaining their pride.

The antidote to pride is humility. The antidote to “I’m right” is “I’m not God.” Maybe the book, taken as a whole, isn’t so hard to understand after all–just hard to accept and live. Prideful humans always have a hard time giving up the illusion of being God.

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