Job for Children?

Job for Children? July 3, 2020

When you think of Bible stories that should be turned into children’s books, you probably don’t think of Job first. You probably also don’t think of Ezekiel 23 or Genesis 38, for that matter. Some stories just seem best left for the grown-up Sunday School class. Which is why I was surprised to see Scott James’s new book Where is Wisdom? pop up on a list of newly published books for children.

Now to be fair,Where is Wisdom? isn’t exactly the story of Job. Rather it’s “inspired by Job 28” (so the subtitle says), which is an overview of wisdom akin to Proverbs 2. So don’t worry about running into Satan, a wife with questionable judgment, or friends who form a less-than-helpful support network. This is a visual interpretation of a passage that sometimes too easily gets skimmed over in yearly Bible-reading plans or after slogging our way through chapters of debate in Job. Which makes this book all the more interesting, I think.
Image: B&H
One important note: I have no comment on the quality of the art–I’m not competent to judge that sort of thing. Maybe it’s great, maybe it’s terrible, I can’t say.
I can say that I’m still trying to decide what I think about the end of the book. (So spoiler alert, if such a thing matters for a book based on the Bible?) Walking through the various ways men search for wisdom as drawn from Job 28, we come to the conclusion of the children’s book:
“And now that we know of this generous Giver and the wisdom He provides, are we ready to see where this treasure hunt leads?
After searching high and low through God’s wondrous world, we’ll never find a greater treasure than Jesus Christ. Wisdom points to HIM.”
This is certainly true and the right application of Job 28 (through the filter of John 1). And yet, that rounds out the story in a way that the book of Job does not. We are left with something of a mystery in Job with wisdom being found in God’s revelation, rather than in our worldly circumstances. And of course we know, having the New Testament, that God’s revelation culminates in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an atonement for the sins of His people.
And yet,  Job obviously doesn’t get there. Instead we’re given a resolution to the events that set the book off (children and wealth are restored to Job, and he is vindicated to some extent as righteous at least in comparison to his friends), but we’re never really given an explanation of the problem of suffering. Job knows to look to God for wisdom, but he doesn’t know what that means when he is suffering unjustly. We can look back through the filter of the ultimate unjust suffering on the cross and fill in the blanks, but Job has no such vision. He is left in a state of uncertainty.
Which perhaps isn’t a good criticism of a children’s book. Existential angst doesn’t need to set in until they’re teenagers and can be sent to sweat that angst off in the fields through the hard work of reality. Which also doesn’t need to be in a children’s book.
What does need to be there is exactly what Where is Wisdom? has to offer: a simple narrative, clear language, and a useful addition to a children’s library.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO
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