Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922)
I was a high school student when I first read the Book of Job. I had (finally) gotten serious about my walk with the Lord and began reading through the Bible. Job’s story was deeply encouraging to me as I struggled through those awkward teen years.
To be clear, I have a lot of fond (and some quite hilarious) memories of my high school days. But I also learned that walking with God did not guarantee that I would always “win” or that He would give me everything I wanted. I discovered, in fact, that God allows His children to go through trials. The “trials” I experienced seem kind of trivial now, but I suspect all of them will once we reach eternity (Romans 8:18).
Here’s a quick summary of the Book of Job:
Job had everything a man of his era could want. He had the perfect family (seven sons and three daughters) and was the wealthiest man in the region. But Job was also “blameless and upright.” This doesn’t mean he was sinless, of course, but he did walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord. He even made sacrificial offerings to God on behalf of his children.
God allowed the enemy to take everything from Job: his children, his wealth, and even his health. Job never cursed God, but he certainly cried out to Him in his anguish.
His friends offered their counsel, but their insights were based the erroneous idea that bad things only happen to us when we sin (a false notion that many still believe today). Job, they argued, must have done something to deserve the unspeakable tragedies that had come into his life. Needless to say, their words did more harm than good.
The Lord eventually answers Job’s lengthy complaint with an intense rebuke. We could summarize His response one sentence: “Dear Job, I’m God, you’re not.” God never told Job why He had allowed him to experience such loss and misery. This taught me a valuable lesson: God is not obligated to explain Himself to me.
Job’s life does eventually turn around for the better: “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” Encouraging, indeed, but we are never told why God allowed this godly man to suffer.
That’s my feeble attempt at summarizing a magnificent story–I would highly encourage you to read it for yourself. It’s located in the Old Testament of the Bible.
I’ve mentioned how encouraging the Book of Job was for me during my high school years. But I was exposed to some really bizarre teaching a few years later (through television, radio, etc.). It was called by different names: “word of faith,” “name it and claim it,” or more commonly, “the prosperity gospel.” The nuances among teachers vary, but the central message is the same: God’s children should be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous, and a lack of these material blessings in believer’s life means he just doesn’t have enough faith (or has sin in his life).
Job’s life presents a unique dilemma for prosperity “preachers”: How do you reconcile the teachings of this book with claims God’s children should only experience prosperity? They have tried, but their attempts have resulted in some of the most horrendous interpretation of the Scriptures I’ve ever heard. You’d think that even a casual Bible reader would see through it, but the desire to turn God into our personal bellhop can be blinding.
I’ll give you one example. Let’s take a direct quote from Kenneth Copeland, who travels in his own private jet (at ministry supporters’ expense) to avoid “demons.” Here’s a quote about Job, directly from Copeland’s website:
The Bible tells us Job continually made the same sacrifice for his children. The sacrifice was to be made only once. Because he did it continually, he sacrificed in unbelief instead of faith; as a result, the thing he feared came upon him (Job 3:25) . . .
Through all of his life, Job was safe until he feared and lost his faith. And it wasn’t until his faith was restored that God was able to bless him again.
Let’s consider the serious errors you’ve just read:
Yes, Job did continually offer sacrifices for his children: “continually” in the sense that it was his normal practice. But there’s nothing in the text that would lead us to conclude Job “sacrificed in unbelief.” The opposite is true–the Scriptures are highlighting Job’s dedication to God and his concern for the spiritual well-being of his family.
Job laments that his worst fears have come true in Chapter 3, verse 25. But again, there’s nothing in this text that states (or even implies) he lived by fear. This verse is Job’s grief expressed in sacred poetry, and we should simply read it as such.
Prosperity preachers like Copeland propagate the very error that the Book of Job was written to correct–the belief that we can presume God’s favor or judgement based on material blessings alone.
Don’t allow false teachers to rob you of the beautiful, perplexing, awe-inspiring lesson of the Book of Job: God is sovereign, and He allows His children to suffer for reasons we’ll never fully understand this side of eternity.