By The Rt Rev. Stephen Andrews, PhD
‘We must be well pleased with God as a friend even when he seems to come forth against us as an enemy,’ commented Matthew Henry on today’s passage from Job. While this is a wise word for the faithful who suffer, it is not really Job’s meaning. Job is not affirming his trust in God so much as he is steadfastly declaring the injustice of his affliction. And he will not be bullied into a false admission of guilt by Eliphaz. . . or by God.
While he acknowledges that he is not perfect, it is deeply troubling to Job that his adversity is out of all proportion to his offenses. Indeed, he hints at a kind of perversity in a God who would leave him in his misery without offering him hope.
It is not difficult to understand Job, or to admire him, even. While our sense of what is just is often skewed, particularly as it affects ourselves, it is nevertheless deeply seated in our consciousness. ‘That’s not fair!’ my kids used to complain. And, of course, we would respond, ‘Life’s not fair!’ But the complaint is legitimate, and Job’s honesty before God is an example for all who suffer.
At some point Job will come to understand that in God’s economy justice is ruled by grace. This is the economy that lies at the base of St Paul’s understanding of generosity in today’s Epistle reading. Those who give without compulsion will find God multiplying their gifts, ‘swelling the harvest of their benevolence’, and spilling over into thanksgiving.
Is it better to accept or remonstrate against life’s unfairness?
Is your generosity rooted in an economy of justice or an economy of grace?
In hardship or in happiness, in poverty or in plenty, teach me to praise thy name, O Lord. Amen.
The Rt Rev. Stephen Andrews, PhD is the Bishop of the Diocese of Algoma in Ontario