Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Challenge of Money in the Old Testament: Job

When we first meet Job, we find he is a most unusual person: one both righteous and rich. Satan, humankind’s constant accuser before Yahweh until Jesus Christ, told Yahweh that Job was not righteous for nothing. He said that Job was only right with Yahweh because Yahweh had made him rich. Satan was sure that if Job lost his wealth, he would curse Yahweh (Job 1:9-12).
In Money and Power (trans. LaVonne Neff, 1985), Jacques Ellul observes, “We often hear this idea from the poor, the unfortunate, laborers, employees, small businessmen: ‘Honesty and piety and justice are luxuries. When you have what you need to live well, then you can also afford to be religious and moral; but when you’re poor, you don’t have time for such frills.’ Job’s prologue…shows us that this popular attitude is a word from Satan, and those who promote it are Satan’s mouthpiece” (p. 39).

When we first meet Job, Job’s relationship with Yahweh was an end in itself and not some means to another different end (like health and wealth here and heaven hereafter). Job chose to praise and thank Yahweh because Yahweh was worthy of all praise and thanks. Job honored Yahweh because it was meaningful to do so and not because it was useful. Job loved Yahweh and not Pluto (the false god of money).
We know this because of Job’s response to disaster. Yahweh allowed Satan to suddenly strip Job of all his wealth: Sabeans stole all his oxen and donkeys, lightning struck and killed his sheep and shepherds, Chaldeans stole his camels and killed his servants, and a storm caused a house to collapse atop and kill all ten of his adult children (vs. 13-19). When Job hears this, he cries out in surprise and grief, rips his clothes, shaves his head, and throws himself on the ground.
Jacques asks of Job, “Will he sink in despair, will he accuse God of being unjust?” (p. 39). He asks of us, “Is God just when he favors us, makes us rich and blesses us? Is he unjust when he punishes, takes away our possessions and condemns us? Does God have an account to keep with us? Will we accept his judgments only if we understand them?” (p. 39).
Job did not know why he had suddenly lost all his wealth. He did know, however, that Yahweh gives and takes away as he wills. Job also knew that his relationship with Yahweh mattered more than all the gifts (physical, material, or spiritual) that Yahweh had given him to enjoy. Job concludes his response to disaster by praising Yahweh (vs. 20-21). “In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God” (v. 22).
Abraham was in a wealthy position in Haran but Yahweh asked him to leave that behind and walk with him to an unknown country (Genesis 12). When the servants of Abraham and his nephew Lot started fighting over grass and water for their sheep, Abraham allowed Lot to take his animals to the rich Jordan River valley and remained with his own in the dry hills. Job suffered the sudden loss of all his wealth. Both men proved that their relationship with Yahweh was more important than anything Yahweh had given them. “It is not enough to bless the Lord when one is rich…Every declaration that has never been put to the test is suspect: God asks Job and Abraham for concrete evidence” (p. 40). May we be as ready as they proved to be!

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.