Is not Job the narrative about the conundrum of pain, suffering and loss? Is it not a query into the permanency of suffering found within the human condition, and how ultimately this ‘thing’ is something that is part of our experience that does give answers? What if resting within this story resides an anecdote of the suffering inherent within material wealth, excess and accumulation?
When we encounter Job we are met with someone who is ‘right in the eyes of the lord’ or ‘he had it going on’ or could it also mean: ‘he was successful human being’ (whether that signifies spiritual or otherwise). So, if anything, we are initially met with the notion of success even if it refers to the ethics of being. Job was also materially successful, all of the references to cattle is a nod to financial stability. He had everything he wanted, or so he thought.
Then God’s prosecutor (this is key for those who think that God and Satan are eternally at-odds) Satan (meaning opposer, adversary or prosecutor) strikes a deal with God (In this story, God seems to be a capitalist) and the trials of Job begin. God (via Satan; via his doppelgangor; essentially God is supplying Job with the dialectic framework, which is simply put: synthesis – antithesis – new interpretation…) seems to also imply that the negation of material wealth is that which does not define an individual – hence why Job ends up alone. He loses everything, even the support of his wife. He is, for all intense purposes – alone. Is this not (also) a symbol for the ‘individual’ – the person who sustains one-self without the help of another (which is also a perverse illusion of the neo-liberal Left).
Then Job is met by his friends who think sin is the issue here. I want to use sin in the sense of lack here, something we do not have. These conversations, as Westerners tend to only be viewed as condemnatory, but this mode of discussion is common in Jewish parlance – it is dialectical, Job is not meant to simply accept what is being claimed but also counter it. Is not this also the claim of capitalist ideology and/or media-driven commodity fetishism, that what we lack can be filled by, well, anything? The object that passes our televsion screens can fulfill the void; and yet is in its entirety an illusion that drives us deeper into the violence of unending desire?
God also eventually responds, but how? Via a natural element. A whirlwind. A material object. In this moment, we encounter something radical – God is a materialist (different from material wealth). God objectifies himself in nature. In an uncontrollable, undefinable, violent object. It is this ‘thing’ God chooses to respond to Job in. God transcends his initial capitalist bargaining by denying the need for such a tool. So, in this sense, violence is a tool for Job’s self-reflection. Nature is a mirror into Job’s own sense of loss of grief (think about this, does not nature also suffer loss?) God is ultimately aligning Job’s loss with his own loss – God becomes identity-less in the midst of Job’s own loss of identity.
Is this image not centered around Job being alone in his suffering? Is not also the implication of Job’s ‘returned’ blessing a restoration to individuality, well, I think we err by reading such an end to the story. For how is wealth accumulated if not via ‘other’s’? – Then is not the implication similar to the communal practice of the early church, that Jobs’ wealth is given to him by his ‘others’ – as in, implying the new Job can only now define himself by what he gains in community, and so it is not a nod back to material wealth – but more importantly – relational wealth. That what is common to him is common to all and vice versa. Maybe the story of Job is about the suffering of material wealth and the eventual losses it necessarily brings to usher in a new kind of communal expression.