Paul L. Caron

Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Book Of Job: Good News For An Unfair World

Christianity Today Op-Ed:  The Book of Job Gives Us Good News for an Unfair World, by Ellie Wiener (Ph.D. Student (Dissertation, The Book of Job), Cambridge):

Christianity TodayLife is unfair, and that is a problem.

All humans seem to have an “unfairness radar” that goes off whenever we encounter senseless injustice. From trite examples provoking our frustration, such as someone cutting us in line, to those that deeply grieve us, like a young mother of three fighting terminal cancer, we mourn with an acute sense that the world is not as it should be. Or consider unfairness on a global scale, as the news barrages us with unrelenting reports of armed conflicts and natural disasters—as we struggle to register the staggering counts of individual lives upended or ended by relentless forces of harm. ...

And in all this, we wrestle with a God who could have intervened but did not. ...

How could an infinitely powerful and thoroughly good Creator God be governing this world, as the Bible claims, when the world seems to be in such a messy state? ...

As formidable as these questions are, I am heartened to know the Bible takes them seriously and refuses to offer tediously thin answers. In fact, the Book of Job confronts the issue of unfairness head-on, and with admirable honesty. Rather than abashedly apologizing for an incompetent deity, it boldly commends a tenacious trust in the Creator of this good yet groaning world. And in the process, it points ahead to the figure of Jesus as God’s ultimate answer to the question of unfairness. ...

Many of us are familiar with the book’s premise: Job is the paragon of piety, living with genuine allegiance to God and enjoying a superlative level of flourishing (1:1–5). However, he is suddenly struck with a comprehensive loss of his wealth, children, and health—“without any reason” (2:3). Two chapters in, the rattled reader surveys the once rich yet still righteous Job, now sitting alone with torn clothes on an ash heap, miserably scraping the boils off his skin with a broken piece of pottery.

In this way, the book deliberately sets up an abrasively incongruous situation: What happens if the most righteous person imaginable is subjected to the most devastating suffering imaginable—just short of losing his very life? Is living in allegiance to God worthwhile amid such baffling, offensive unfairness? What does it take to sustain gritty trust in God when it seems he’s abandoned you? ...

Journeying with Job from chapters 1 to 42, I cannot help but sense the theological inertia of the entire book moving inexorably toward Jesus, the ultimate righteous sufferer, consummate friend who intercedes, and God’s decisive answer to all injustice. But while a virtuous Job suffered unwittingly, just short of death, through no fault of his own—thinking God had become his enemy—the perfectly righteous and blameless Jesus knowingly walked into the forsakenness of a sinner’s death, through only the fault of our own.

Jesus was not merely a man who prayed for his failing friends—he is the Son of God who died for friends whose failure had earned their death. God himself bore the crushing unfairness of our death so that he can be eternally “unfair” in his grace toward us by giving us life we could never demand or deserve.

In the end, Job’s solace was God himself—being satisfied by God’s long-awaited answer, by “seeing” him (42:5). In the same way, Jesus is the One who answers humanity with his very presence with us and for us. Our soul-deep solace is seeing the God who answers unfairness by climbing inside it, dying because of it, and transforming it by his resurrection to hand it back to us as his grace.

Without minimizing what remains harrowingly unfair in this world, Jesus addresses it by arranging the unjust discrepancy of his innocent suffering to be our only hope. Alongside Job, we struggle with pain and loss that defy human calculus—but then again, divine generosity also confounds our math. Why should the Creator send showers on a wasteland (Job 38:25–27) and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45)? Why should the Father send his willing Son to save rebellious sinners?

When we grapple with inexplicable suffering in our lives, we want a “Why?”—but like Job, what we really need more than anything is a “Who.” We need to see God answering us with himself in the person of Jesus. And because he already has, when our hearts cry out with longing to see him with our own eyes, we can be assured that in due time, we too will behold our God and end up somewhere inconceivably “more than” where we started (1 Pet. 1:3–9; 5:10).

Editor's Note:  If you would like to receive a weekly email each Sunday with links to the faith posts on TaxProf Blog, email me here.



Faith, Legal Education | Permalink