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Job's Second Complaint

Job's Complaint'

By Dennis Pollock

The book of Job is certainly unique in the Scriptures, but it tackles a question which is very, very common: Why do the righteous suffer? Job has been going through a terrible season in his life, with one disaster following another. His three friends all insist that Job’s recent calamities and misfortune are a result of God punishing him for his sins. Sandwiched in between the accusations of his friends, Job responds with continual insistence that he has no reason to be ashamed. He has lived an upright life, and God is surely not being quite fair in punishing him this way.

Job’s biggest complaint is that it seems terribly wrong for godly people to suffer. This should be the lot accorded to the wicked, ungodly, oppressors of this world. In saying this Job is not alone. Most of humanity feel this way. People largely believe that in an ideal world, bad, cruel people would suffer much, and good, kind people would live a life of blessing, success, and happiness. But the idea that good people would suffer greatly and bad, nasty people would barely suffer at all, but instead lead happy, carefree lives in abundance and comfort seems nearly unbearable!

Job’s foremost complaint relates to how the Almighty could allow such terrible pain and suffering to come to such a good man as himself. Again and again he insists upon his innocence. But in the 21st chapter of the book named after him, he focuses on a second issue. Not only does it seem inconceivable that God could allow such a one as himself to suffer so greatly, now he turns to the unreasonableness of how it is that wicked, cruel men can prosper all their lives. While he is in pain the ungodly are doing very well indeed. This is just plain wrong, and Job cannot wrap his head around it. He asks:

Why do the wicked live and become old,
Yes, become mighty in power?

It’s Just Wrong!

This is not how it’s supposed to be, in Job’s mind. Wicked, grasping, selfish, immoral men should die young, of some horrible disease. As they spend their last days in terrible pain and anguish, they should cry out over and over again, “Surely this disease and this suffering are God’s punishment for my wicked life!”

Yes, that’s how it should be, as far as Job is concerned, but clearly that is not always how it is; in fact it’s almost never like that. Wicked men often live into their old age, and even prosper. In Job’s words, they “become mighty in power.” Many end up wealthy and in positions of authority. Their wickedness seems no hindrance to their success in life; indeed (horror of horrors) their selfish, ambitious ways seem almost to be an asset in achieving success and power in this world. Why would God allow this? Why not cut them down in the prime of their lives with horrible, painful, agonizing diseases as a lesson to all that it does not pay to live an ungodly life? But no, instead they “live and become old,” and grow “mighty in power.”

Job continues:

Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear,
Neither is the rod of God upon them.
Their bull breeds without failure;
Their cow calves without miscarriage.
They send forth their little ones like a flock,
And their children dance… (Job 21:8-11)

Not only do wicked people live into old age and achieve success, their children are doing well, they never seem to get robbed, their livestock are healthy and fruitful, and their children are so happy they are always dancing. It’s enough to drive a good man mad… especially if, like Job, he is suffering and enduring terrible and multiple tragedies. If good people have to suffer, surely the bad people should suffer more still. But it’s just not always the case. This is a great injustice and painful to contemplate.

While his three “friends” have been suggesting that all Job’s calamities are a result of his own sins, Job points out the obvious and painful truth: suffering cannot always be the result of sin, since there are far too many blatantly ungodly men in this world that don’t seem to suffer much at all; indeed they seem far more blessed than most of the righteous. Who can explain this? Who can make sense of such a senseless, yet unquestionably obvious, reality?

Peaceful Deaths

Next, Job goes on to consider the death of wicked men, which in his mind comes far too late and happens much too comfortably:

They spend their days in wealth,
And in a moment go down to the grave.
Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us,
For we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?
And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?’  (Job 21:13-15)

 After a lifetime of wealth and success, ungodly, wicked men go down to the grave in a moment. They don’t experience a long, drawn-out, painful, miserable death; they die peacefully in a moment, having experienced many decades of prosperity. This is exactly opposite of the way Job figures it ought to be. Of course, the wicked and the righteous will die, but the wicked should die terrible, horrible, miserable deaths, screaming on their beds in agony, while the righteous die peacefully in a moment. But Job has lived a few years by now, and he knows that this simply isn’t always the case. Godly people sometimes die painful, drawn-out deaths, and wicked men and women sometimes die peacefully. What in the world is the Creator of all life thinking in allowing such a terrible breach of justice? Does He not realize that this kind of thing encourages other people to be evil? If they do not see the wicked paying for their wickedness in life and in their dying, younger men will come to the impression that there is no penalty for ungodliness. There is no price to pay, so why not live it up, grow old, and enjoy the success and power that comes to those who oppress and abuse the weaker ones?

Prayer-less Wealthy

Job describes the attitude of the wicked toward God: “Who is the Almighty that we should serve Him,” and “What profit is there if we pray to Him?” The harsh reality is that, both for Job and for the people of God who have lived since Job’s day – even to the present day, there are people who become hugely successful in this world who never pray, never read the Scriptures, do not go to church, and may even mock God.

And this has always been true. If you consider the current crop of millionaires and billionaires in our world, the majority of them are not evangelical Christians. They have no prayer life, they do not begin their days reading the Bible, they either don’t go to church at all, or else go to some dry, dead, formal, lifeless church where they are guaranteed never to hear the gospel. To quote from the Psalms, “God is in none of their thoughts.” Not in the morning, not throughout the day, not in the evening, not on Sunday or any other day of the week. They simply live from day to day and year to year without giving God any consideration. In Job’s words, they are essentially saying, “What profit do we have if we pray to Him?” When you add to this the fact that there are praying, Bible-reading, praise-singing, Scripture-quoting evangelicals who are suffering and barely paying their bills, this seems an abominable inequity that God should feel duty-bound to remedy post-haste!

After expanding further upon these depressing thoughts, Job finally concludes his soliloquy with these words:

…he (the wicked man) shall be brought to the grave,
And a vigil kept over the tomb.
The clods of the valley shall be sweet to him;
Everyone shall follow him,
As countless have gone before him.
How then can you comfort me with empty words,
Since falsehood remains in your answers?” (Job 21:32-34)

A nice peaceful death for the wicked man, who has lived a long, happy, wealthy life, a nice, pretty grave at life’s conclusion… it just seems so, so wrong. And here are Job’s accusers telling him that all his miseries are due to his wickedness. Job’s attitude toward God isn’t ideal here, but he is exactly right in insisting that his three friends’ views are dead-wrong. The idea that misery in life is due to one’s sins could hardly be more wrong, and this book which bears Job’s name has been shouting this to all humanity for thousands of years.

Bible readers know that at the conclusion of this book God shows up and has a few things to say to Job. He does not defend Himself or explain why He allows wicked people to succeed and live to old age. He simply says through many different arguments that Job is far too puny to understand such things and needs to repent of his bad attitude toward his Maker. Job quickly gets the point and responds:

I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:3-6)

Walk by Faith

Today, in a theological sense, we know a lot more about God than Job did, at least before he met Him. We have the epistles of Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to study and ponder. But even better we have the words and the life of Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh from which to learn. And we have a little better grasp on the issue of why wicked people can prosper and live long, while good people sometimes do not.

In some ways the answer to this dilemma is summed up by a short declaration made by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian believers, where he says: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). For if God had determined that all the wicked would suffer terribly, and then die young of painful deaths, while the good people would all live long, healthy, successful lives, it wouldn’t take much faith to serve God. It would be evident to all that serving God pays big time. And of course it does, but we cannot always discern that by looking around and comparing the lives of good and bad men and women.

It seems God has deliberately thrown into our world all kinds of events, factors, and circumstances that simply do not make much sense. As Solomon observed:

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into our world to save us from the penalty and power of sin, and to provide for us eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are born-again and become children of God. We might suppose that once this happens, God will start to bless, bless, bless us, and never allow any negative things to come into our lives, ever again. But to our surprise and chagrin, it just ain’t so. People who ignore Christ, mock Christ, reject Christ, and want nothing to do with Christ sometimes appear to do very well in life, while lovers of Jesus, who center the totality of their lives around the Savior, sometimes struggle terribly.

And this is where faith comes in. We walk by faith and not by sight. Life is bigger than this world, and the Christian knows that whatever he must endure in this life, there is an amazing, wonderful, perfect world that lies ahead, where he or she will live with Jesus in perfect peace, perfect health, perfect joy, and it will go on forever and ever.

So, to try and answer Job’s question, “Why do the wicked grow old and succeed?” it appears our wise Creator had determined to give life the appearance of randomness, so that those who truly love Him will walk with Him by faith, not by sight. But this will not last forever. One day our faith will become sight, and we shall discover that God really is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and who trust, love, serve, and follow our good Shepherd and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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