“Why Me, God?…”

I listened to a fascinating podcast today from the Professional Left.  In it, the two hosts were discussing the Book of Job.  Their thoughts and opinions gave me much to think about, so I will share here my ideas and I hope to hear from some of you as well.

First, What They Got Wrong

Now, these people obviously weren’t Bible scholars.  In fact, as they recounted the story, they got a few of the details wrong.  For example:

  1.  The refer repeatedly to the Satan in the story as the devil.  Whereas, according to scholars, this is incorrect.  This character was not the devil we associate with the New Testament, but another heavenly being known as the “Accuser.”  Two different entities.  (Stanley, p. 509.)
  2. They made several remarks about Job’s wife being killed and replaced.  However, in reading Job chapter 2, we see that Job’s children were killed, but his wife actually lived on to harass him through his troubles.
  3. I don’t know if I should label someone’s opinion as wrong, however, in minute 30 of the podcast, one of the hosts described the main theme of Job as being, “the best man being tested and punished by God because He was bored.”  I will cover what I believe the main function of the book to be later, however, I will say here that I believe this statement to be dead wrong.

So, they got a few minor points wrong.  However, in their discussion, they got a number of important ideas right.

  1.  God never answers Job’s questions.  Throughout the bulk of the book, Job continues to ask why God would allow such tragedy to befall him.  And even though God responds, He never gives Job the “Why.”  Instead, He seems to ridicule and mock him for asking.
  2. The end does not absolve God for the loss of Job’s first family.  The end of the story ties everything up nicely with a bow with Job’s fortune being restored and four generations of children being born.  I am sorry, but having 2 new children does not make up for the senseless loss of one.
  3. The Evolution of Blasphemy.  The hosts discuss the attitudes with which people have come to question God over time.  They made some good connections with the fact that Job was a shift in Wisdom writings from a Deuteronomic theology to a more realistic and questioning way of reasoning through life’s ups and downs.  In other words, where many Wisdom books, such as Proverbs, assumes the ideal that faithful people receive only good gifts, Job turns to the questions of reality when terrible things happen to those good people.  Does God always give us what we deserve?  Does suffering mean God is angry with us (Stanley, p. 510.) The Book of Job makes it ok for us to ask those questions.

What Did They Miss?

Both hosts made some good points about this story that is so hard for most of us to accept.  I think everyone, especially Christians, want to believe that God rewards faithful followers.  However, I believe the hosts missed a critical point regarding the function of the Job story.  They focused much on how uncaring and malevolent God was toward Job.  One seemed emotionally engaged with the idea that God wronged Job and how terrible a deity He was for it.  It was as if the story’s primary concern was refuting the Conventional Wisdom writings that God is just, loving and equitable.  Almost as if the main point was to show how petty and irresponsible God can be.

However, by looking closely we can see that the true function of Job is completely different.  The central message of this ancient writing is that God is so big and beyond our comprehension that we can never truly understand his plans or his reasoning. We try to put Him in a box, so that we can explain why certain things happen.  We try to relieve our own emotional discomfort by attaching blame to a victim or a specific, divine reason to a tragedy. (Doctorow.)  But that is not how God nor the universe works.  And just because we don’t understand why bad things situations befall us, it doesn’t mean that God is out to get us.

Stanley puts it best, “The message is clear: humans are incapable of understanding why things happen as they do, including why humans suffer.” (p. 511.). We are not God, my friends.

7 responses to ““Why Me, God?…”

  1. An interesting and very informative take on the podcast and the very present dilemma of attempts to apprehend the book of Job through a modern lens. I did appreciate your very concise and cogent restatement of what was accurate and for that matter inaccurate in the podcast. to be certain, there were some marked areas where the podcasts misrepresented Job through a .post modern lens. Your format clearly and precisely identified those errors of interpretation that render Job little more than a fable about broader categories of evil. The issue here is about righteousness and the ways in which conventional and dissenting wisdom can be played out in a singlet text. I must admit that I am still puzzled by the return of all that Job had lost in the end. Do you feel that is conventional wisdom being heralded as the rue path or simply an end to the saga that offers hope to those who suffer injustice ?

  2. I agree with you on one major point. The first of which is that God did not punish Job out of boredom or meanness, as the podcast may suggest. The book isn’t really about the suffering (although Job is subjected to plenty of it), it is really about wisdom. Which the textbook lists as “a human’s effort to master one’s self, society and the envioronment (Bandstra p.399). The author attempts to answer the age old question of why (Lester’s lecture on wisdom)? Why the world is filled with suffering? Why bad things happen to good people. He or she is looking for the orderly, “common sense” answer, that conventional wisdom would provide (lecture section 1). According to our lecture, this is done using the example of the relationship between God and his followers (Job).
    You were “spot on” with your interpretation of Job. God is bigger than everyone and everything. He is bigger than any struggle, suffering or complaining that this world can dish out. He represents a great power, a power that controls everything and everyone “under the sun” (lecture section 2). As for understanding it all; I think you had the right idea. “The answer is clear, humans are incapable of understanding why things happen as they do, including why humans suffer (Stanley p.511). Maybe we aren’t meant to understand why, we are meant to just trust God.

  3. Nicely organized! I especially enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Evolution of Blasphemy and how the Book of Job makes it ok for us to ask those questions.

  4. I like your organized comment on the podcast from the Professional Left. As for the difference between the words, ‘devil’ and ‘satan’, you indicate that the hosts’ use of the word ‘devil’ for the ‘satan’ in the book of Job is incorrect from the point of a Biblical scholar. Before I read Bandstra’s chapter of Job and listened to Dr. Lester’s lecture of Wisdom B, I also thought that the ‘satan’ in the book of Job is the satan as devil. Thus, I think your comment on the word ‘satan’ in the book of Job as a Biblical scholar will be very helpful even for a Christian, like me, who has never heard about the word ‘satan’ in the Job as the “Accuser.” As for the right things the hosts discuss, I agree with you, especially to the second point that “having two new children does not make up for the senseless loss of one.” In addition, I also agree with you to the point of ‘What did they miss?’ As Stanley’s words express in your citation, we cannot understand why things happen as they do and why we suffer.

  5. In your post, there is a nice balance between the things you point out that the hosts got right and those things where they were not on the mark. I appreciate the outside sources you bring into your sharing and like the way you state how we as humans cannot possibly understand what the Universe has destined for each of us. From my studies this week I feel that this is the take home point. The Universe, or God, is in charge and we need to live our lives not worrying about what the world wants us to think is important. We need to accept each blessing as it comes and live our lives in a way that pleases the Universe.

  6. I really enjoyed your organized responses and how you continue to give the podcaster the benefit of the doubt in this, I felt that I wasn’t able to do that but I wanted to do so. Before the lecture and the information I read I too saw Satan as the devil but I was able to better understand the struggle once I saw God wasn’t the one causing it.

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