Every man should be well educated and have basic knowledge of his culture…. Let’s see how much you know! It’s question and answer time with Eduardo Quintana – The Quizzical Bible Man – About Lousy Comforters
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We need to learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable. It’s not easy being cordial when you feel strongly about issues that matter. I was discussing politics with a friend recently when all of a sudden someone who overheard us started ranting about the government–and I mean ranting! I know how easy it is to get “fired up.” Most of us have some strong opinions; we may need to reign in our emotions when we’re expressing them.
The Book of Job
In the book of Job, three so-called friends gathered to comfort Job, but they ended up ranting and judging him. Job needed encouragement, but what he got instead was condemnation. We all know the account, how Job was afflicted without any explanation. So his friends visited him, and our reading is but a sample of their invective. They assumed that Job was being punished by God, and they defended this position aggressively. They assumed to know Job’s intentions. And they were dead wrong. Only God knows all the facts. Job’s friends thought they could “play God”. In so doing, they proved to be pious snobs in love with their theology, while Job is seen as the only one who’s actually in love with God.
If you’ve read through the lengthy discourses of Job’s friends, you find them saying some good things; in fact, you’d be apt to underline some of their statements in your Bible…but then they turn around and say something totally out of line (lousy comforter), all the while absolutely convinced of their rightness. They appear kind of like us–wise one minute and foolish the next.
Making Things Worse
Job was understandably frustrated by this rebuke. He was doubly afflicted–first by tragic events, then by being told that his trials were all his fault. Even if Job’s friends were right about him, they certainly could’ve responded to his pain with greater sensitivity. But they were more concerned about being right than about being loving.
Job’s friends started out well. They sat with him in silence, sharing his suffering. They offered a comforting presence, and if they had stopped there they would’ve been seen today as models of compassion–a word that means “to suffer with” someone. But they couldn’t leave well enough alone; they had to evaluate Job’s suffering. When we know of people who are hurting, we need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. We need to bear their burdens and offer comfort. We need not “explain” their pain. Any theological appraisal can come at some other time, after we’ve had time to process the suffering and prayerfully consider how to address it–if at all. Most hardships make little sense, so we ought to simply leave well enough alone. Job observes: “We accept good things from God; should we not also accept evil?” (2:10).
CALL TO ACTION:
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