In Job 11 we are introduced to Job’s friend Zophar. This guy is a piece of work. He challenges Job’s righteousness. In verse 6 of chapter 11, he suggests that Job may even be underpaid for some of his sins. He makes the Calvinistic argument-Total Depravity. This means that we are all so depraved that any good thing that happens is a gift because we deserve nothing. I agree with this to a point. If we really got what we deserved, we would all be toast. Is this true? I would argue Yes….and No.
The question of our righteousness seems to be argued both ways in scripture. The Bible is clear that in one sense there is nobody righteous. We all fall short. This is true. The sense in which this is true is that in comparison to a holy God none of us measure up.
There is another sense, however, in which people can accurately be described as righteous. There was something in the righteousness of Noah that caused God to decide against the utter destruction of the world. There was something in the righteousness of Job that caused God to talk smack with the devil and challenge Satan to put Job to the test. Hebrews says that there is a great cloud of people around us that are righteous people who have been made perfect. That is a fascinating phrase, “righteous people made perfect.” This suggests that it is possible to be righteous without being perfect. So while there is a sense in which none of us are righteous when we use God as our measuring stick, there is another sense in which we are called to live righteous lives in an unrighteous world. If you use our , we can stand out like “stars in the universe” by living righteously. I know a lot of people like this. They aren’t perfect, but they are righteous. I preached the funeral for one of our dear saints the other day named Linda West. She wasn’t perfect, but I would describe her as righteous in this generation.
I don’t know about you, but a lack of righteousness is not a satisfactory answer for me to the problem of evil. Zophar seems to indicate to Job that he deserves what he was getting and more. Isn’t it fun being lectured by people whose speak with confidence because their lives are going well at the moment. I have had people equate difficulties in my own life to a lack of righteousness. If the truth was known, sometimes I have experienced the favor of God when I least deserved it and at other times when I was walking close to the Lord, it seems like all hell broke loose. One of the lessons of Job is that good times in our lives aren’t necessarily a sign of God’s blessing, just as hardships aren’t a sign of the curse that is on him.
As the readers of the story, we know what Job doesn’t know. There is a back story to this story and Job is being tested. Whatever you may be facing in life, understand that there is a back story going on. We don’t know what is going on in the grand scheme of things. We are simply called to be faithful. I feel sad for those who have no theology for tough times. If you know of somebody today who is suffering, don’t be like Zophar. They don’t need your lectures, they need your presence. Remind them that God loves them and that He is somehow mysteriously working His plan. Read as many books as you like about how belonging to God will insulate you from trouble and turmoil, but Job’s story flies in the face of many of the popular Christians books of our day. For Job, his suffering was only part of the test. Surviving the lecturing of so-called friends and enduring the bitterness of his wife were equally daunting. Anybody who can do that qualifies as righteous in an unrighteous world.