We’ve all been there. Something bad happens, and someone is compelled to say something. But they say something that, while well-meaning (we hope), is actually hurtful. And sometimes it’s deeply hurtful. The truthiness of their message is irrelevant. All that matter is that it hurts. Even if we back the message up with facts, or scripture…the message might be wrong despite that evidence.
Job had this problem. Job had a remarkable amount of bad things happening to him. Sickness, death of family members…his life was terrible. Cue the well-meaning friends. Job’s friends do one thing well. They keep their mouths shut, at least for a time.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:11-13 (ESV, emphasis mine)
If they had stopped with that, it would have been great. It would have been true friendship in the midst of suffering: mourning together, comforting one another with company instead of words. But they didn’t. And neither do we. Nature abhors a vacuum, and we can’t abide silence in the face of tragedy. So we say whatever comes to our minds. Unfortunately, sometimes those things aren’t helpful. For the next few weeks I’m going to be looking at what Job’s friends said. We’ll look at their advice, we’ll look at how their statements could be justified with scripture. Then we will look at how God evaluates their advice. Spoiler alert: He’s not happy.
…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7 (ESV)
There is much that we can learn from this story. Today’s focus is that scripture doesn’t make you right. Quote all the passages you want. Doesn’t make you right. You can even quote them in context. Still doesn’t guarantee you’re right. Job’s friends didn’t malign scripture. They didn’t take it out of context. They shared solid biblical wisdom that tends to be right…except it isn’t Job’s case.
This doesn’t mean that scripture is not always correct. It means that our usage of it isn’t always correct. That shouldn’t scare you. That shouldn’t threaten you. Because you don’t have to be right. That’s not the point. Salvation isn’t a function of having all the right answers. It’s a function of meeting and knowing the risen Christ. That should undergird all we say and do. And that’s precisely why we probably shouldn’t say half of the things we say. After all,
whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17 (ESV)
Sometimes that means shut up.