Last year my son and I were in the car and he advised me that he thought I was a modern day Job - I had to chuckle as I told him that Job had nothing on me. Of course we all have a story and mine is not all that different than many.. it is just different than folks who have not dealt with the death of a spouse.. or a parent who has not dealt with grieving children.. or a person who has not struggled with a disabling disease that has attacked their spouse.. we all struggle.. and our struggles are ever so personal.
So when I think about the story of Job in the Old Testament I first think about two parents who lost all of their children and their possessions.. and my heart breaks for them. I also think of a man who struggled with a disabling disease that inflicted him with boils all over his body.. a man who had friends.. and a man who was trapped by a bad theology.. a theology that yet disables many even today. It is the theology of divine judgment.
Job and his friends argued about the reasons for his hardships.. his friends blamed him.. Job asserted his innocence.. but at the heart of their cumulative thinking was the idea that someone was to blame for what happened.. and God was judging Job and his wife for some secret sin that they had committed. Even though Job asserted his innocence he did not contest the basis of his friends claims. Job also believed that his hardship was God's judgment.. he just did not believe that he was guilty of a sin worthy of the judgment.
Of course Job's hardship was not initiated by Job or by God.. the story tells us that Job was not being judged.. it says that Job was blameless.. and it also says that Satan (not God) killed Job's children and afflicted Job with a disease. Even so Job and his friends believed that God's judgment was involved.
This theology of divine judgment often rears it's ugly head even today. When bad things happened to New Orleans four years ago religious pundits were speaking about the judgment of God on this area. More recently religious prognosticators were embracing Job's theology and speaking oracles of divine judgment when a massive earthquake hit Haiti. These religious folks seem to have embraced the erroneous theology of Job by saying that hurricanes and earthquakes were God's reaction to somebody's sin.
Interesting that in Job's story God shows up at the end of the story speaking from a whirlwind.. but the wind did not seem to hurt anyone or damage any property.. perhaps God's winds are of this sort? The end of Job's story also teaches us that "sometimes" hardship ends okay - I say okay because even though Job was healed, his fortunes restored and new children were born there were still many lives lost in tragedy.
The moral of Job's story is that things are not always as they seem.. bad things happen to blameless people.. and it is foolish to blame God or invoke a theology of divine judgment when hard times come. I reject that theology on a personal level and I also reject it for the people of New Orleans and Haiti.