Friday, 29 April 2011

The Questions of Job

According to Gibson (1985), Job asks God to answer three questions (Job 7). These questions are asked in the context of seeing the human condition as one of being a “conscripted soldier” or “hired slave.” In Genesis 3:17-18, man is told that he will have to toil for his food and battle to hold back the weeds. Yet I ask whether the enslavement of our system to work is what God really intended when he made that statement?

Through our economic mechanisms and personal greed, humans have sought to break free of the basic struggle for survival through enslaving animals and their fellow humans. The economic system is designed to enslave rather than set free.

If we truly believed in God's kingdom coming then we need to understand the nature of that kingdom, a shalom kingdom. In that kingdom, all needs would be meet and we would bow freely to worship before God and experience the blessings of his kingship. Any work performed would be done so with joy and enthusiasm and not by compulsion or need.

Here is the dilemma that we have as we seek to bring God's kingdom here on earth. We need to change from protecting what we claim as ours to seeking how to ensure that the needs of all are satisfied. We belong to the earth and not the earth to us. God's kingdom is about sharing, satisfying needs, and not about claiming for self. Are we prepared for such a change?

From the perspective of being conscripted by God, Job asks his questions. Does God see him as a threat that God needs to act to ensure that Job does not destroy God's creation? The answer for Job is 'No' but the answer for our human society is 'Yes.' Humans threaten the destruction and balance of this planet and the pollution of the solar system. We have taken for our own use and not considered the cost to other creatures of God's creation. We are the only creatures who wilfully destroy the habitats of others and our own kind for our own advancement. Our destruction threatens the balance of life on the planet and if we spread into the solar system, the balance of that system as well.

The answer Job sought may be 'No' but for humanity the answer is 'Yes,' we need to be reined in so that we do not destroy what God has created through our focus on self.

Job's second question asks whether humanity os significant enough that God should bother with us at all? What is puny man capable of that would threaten God's plan? Gibson answers this with 'Yes, he is as puny as that' but is he really? Man with his weapons is capable of destroying this planet many times over. Isn't this a very real threat to the created order? Yet blindly political leaders blunder on some how believing that more destructive power will put them in a greater position to control violence.

Do they not see Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya? Military might is nothing. Even if it could be targeted directly at the leaders whom the west seeks to remove, it doesn't remove the violent opposition and oppression of people. Do they not see the oppression brought on their own people made by their devotion to an economic and political system that seeks to enslave rather than set free?

Finally, Job asks whether if he had sinned does this harm God? Shouldn't God just forgive and let man alone? Humanity has sinned and continues to sin. If left to itself, humanity would destroy itself. Should God not act to bring an end to humanities attempts to enslave creation and to destroy all that has been created? Does God need to act when we bring such destruction upon ourselves? The problem is that it isn't those who bring the suffering who are brought to suffer but if God directly targeted those leading the destruction and enslaving who would be left?

Humanity seems incapable of seeing an alternative way without the input of a loving God. The problem is so many want to ignore him and claim that he is irrelevant.


John C.L. Gibson (1985) Job, Edinburgh, The Saint Andrew Press.

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