This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
LAUNDRY LOVE CALIFORNIA CARES FOR THE POOR
Free laundry offers practical help for people in poverty
23 Job said:
2 Today I complain bitterly, because God has been cruel and made me suffer. 3 If I knew where to find God, I would go there 4 and argue my case. 5 Then I would discover what he wanted to say. 6 Would he overwhelm me with his greatness? No! He would listen
7 because I am innocent, and he would say, “I now set you free!”
In this speech we can see something that’s been present throughout the drama but not so obviously as here: Job’s naivety. He really does think that God controls events on earth and creates justice; whereas most people have gotten so accustomed to God not doing so that they take it for granted. Yes, Job’s pious friends make excuses for God, but they have accepted the fact that excuses are needed. Job is the odd one out with his apparently inextinguishable faith that God controls what happens in the world. That’s why he thinks that his suffering is punishment from God. That’s why he thinks that if only God could hear his case, he would declare him innocent and free him from suffering.
How can we have faith after Auschwitz?
Job’s naivety is dangerous because he asserts that God favours good people and punishes evil people, while insisting that he has been unjustly punished. For those less naive it’s long been evident that Job’s assertion is false: there is no evidence of God’s controlling justice in the world. And that perception raises big questions for religious faith in a single creator God. If a God doesn’t provide justice, what’s he/she for? If faith in God is compatible with all earthly circumstances, even the most terrible, does it have any meaning? If God does nothing, does it really matter if he/she exists or not? The author makes Job’s friends uneasily aware that a stubborn naive faith such as Job’s can easily lead to a complete denial of God. That’s why they offer such transparently poor arguments to put Job in the wrong and God in the right. For they think that if Job’s right, God’s wrong and probably doesn’t exist.
The reader may often be reminded of what none of the human actors in the drama know, that God has permitted Job’s suffering to show the heavenly Adversary that Job’s faith is sincere. The idea that God permits suffering is difficult for many believers to accept. Jesus was asked if a man was blind because of his own sin or his parent’s sin. He answered that the man was blind so that God’s honour could be served by his being healed. In other words, sick people are here so that they can be cured; poor people are here so that they may be enriched; insane people are here so that they may be restored to their right minds; evil people are here so that they may be forgiven and converted. According to Jesus, the good outcome honours God, while speculations about why the suffering existed in the first place are irrelevant. But that’s Jesus’ answer. The answer offered by the author of Job is very different, as we shall see.