Have you noticed that life is not fair? Sure you have. But even more troubling than this, have you realized that God is not fair either?
Many turn to the Old Testament book of Job for inspiration when they are facing struggles and trials. No doubt, Job suffered mightily, and he made many grand declarations that are often quoted during tribulation.
But Job believed two things that are revisited chapter after chapter in his book. First, he believed that he was righteous because of all the noble activity he engaged in, and second, he believed God would reward him fairly based upon the right standards by which he lived his life. Up until the final chapter, this story is about Job coming to the end of these two false assumptions.
Do you remember the oft quoted, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15a)? Or do you recall the inspirational statement, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10b)?
Notice the references for these two verses. They are partial quotes.
They actually read in full, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways to His face.” And the second quote concludes a passage where Job is lamenting that he has diligently searched for God, looking for the opportunity to “present his case” to God and challenge Him to a debate concerning his (i.e., Job’s) righteousness and the injustice of his suffering. Finally, Job declares self-righteously, “But He knows where to find me, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (ref. Job 23:1-12).
Bluntly stated, Job believed that because he lived a good life and did the right things he should be exempt from suffering, hardship, and heartbreak. In fact, he adhered so strongly to this philosophy of life that he was anxious to stand face-to-face with God and argue that he was a just person who was not being treated fairly. When God fails to adopt Job’s perspective, he has a crisis of faith that lasts forty-one chapters through bankruptcy, invasion, offense, the loss of children and friends, disillusionment, and lost confidence.
Job lived a godly life in order to convince himself and God that he was holy in order to gain God’s favor as a reasonable and fair judge of his sincere effort. While Job accomplishes many laudable achievements, there are two problems with his approach: First, good standing with God is not determined by what a man does. Second, God is not fair in the way we judge fairness.
Job’s philosophy of life garnered great respect among his peers and earned him a lavish lifestyle. But when tested, his philosophy was found deficient for the demands of life in the dock.
How tempting it is to measure ourselves against others and draw conclusions about our value and standing with God upon that basis. It is equally enticing to quantify our worth by measuring our money and possessions. This is especially true when we are stressed and believe we deserve better.
When life is unraveling and we are not happy, it is tempting to declare, “This is not fair,” and directly or indirectly accuse God of not being honorable. Once this conclusion is drawn, we become vulnerable to disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and demoralization in the face of strenuous circumstances.
Friend, God’s opinion of you is neither enhanced nor devalued by what you do. Your right-standing with Him is based solely upon the finished work of your older brother, Jesus Christ, on the cross. Your task is to believe what He accomplished on your behalf and trust Him as your life whether in hard times or prosperity.
And in all candor, it is a good thing that God is not fair. If He were fair we would all be in hell. Neither is God safe and predictable, but He is just and good.
What is the lesson to be learned from Job’s testimony?
He concludes, “I have heard of You (i.e., God) with my ears, but now my eyes see You” (42:5 paraphrased). Maybe we should forget what we have heard about God and look full into the face of our Heavenly Father and ask that He reveal His heart to us as He truly is.