February 19, 2015 by acontraryspirit
Okay Job, you really have quite a bit to say, and your friends have quite a bit to say, about all the terrible things god has done to you even though you are the most righteous person.
God, this book was harder to get through than I anticipated. And to be completely honest, I kept getting mixed up and thinking I was reading about Jonah. I found myself wondering when we were ever going to get to the part about the damn whale! I quickly realized this book of the Bible has nothing to do with a whale. But by reading it on it’s own, I really couldn’t figure out what it was about. So I enlisted the help of Google – not the most sophisticated or scholarly way to find interpretations of biblical passages, but it gets the job done.
I found an essay by Greg Boyd to be the most useful and you can find it on this website, reknew.org.
Job starts out with a rogue dissenter of god, who I think is supposed to be satan, telling god that no one actually chooses to follow him out of free will, they only do it because god does good by his people as long as they do what he wants. The only way for this to be disproved and for god’s wisdom to be proven true, is for god to perform the test satan proposes. That’s right folks, you could also call it a scientific experiment, just saying.
So satan and god pick the most righteous human on earth, Job, who has ‘no sins’ against god, and who is very blessed and they basically see how he responds when his life is in ruins. The rest of the book involves Job talking to his friends about his suffering and seeking answers and comfort. His friends respond playing right into satan’s hand, saying that god is just and blesses those who do right by him, so if Job is having such a hard time, he must deserve it. His friends continue to build a theology that is grown out of fear, not wanting the universe to be so unfriendly, as Boyd points out very well in his essay.
Boyd also points out that both Job and his group of friends are assuming god is doling out everything happening to Job, good and bad. The friends use this to try and comfort Job by saying god is teaching him a lesson in all this and it’s worth learning. Even though what’s really going on here is that Job’s life is destroyed simply because he is human, and part of a vast creation, or universe that is full of actions and reactions.
By the end of the book, god shows up and says that none of them are making any sense and that Job’s life right now has nothing to do with punishment. But the whole book doesn’t really give us any black or white areas, it keeps everything gray, another great point Boyd points out.
So when I read through this, I was mostly just annoyed. There was no point at the end where god won and said to satan, ‘I told you so.’ But satan also didn’t win. And god didn’t tell Job and his friends what everything actually was all about either. Needless to say, it’s really hard to figure out what the point of this book is.
But what Boyd writes makes sense to me; it’s really just about how wrong our theologies are. You know, the ones where we try to explain why something bad happens to someone good, or something good happens to someone bad. Or the one where we even try to decide what good and bad is? We do this instead of accepting that we are tiny specs on a tiny blue spec that is our world, that is so big to us but sits in a universe that is so much bigger. There are always things going on that we can’t explain, that we don’t even know about yet. And as we move farther and farther away from accepting how small we are in the midst of all this cosmos, we move farther and farther away from healing our home, each other, and ourselves. That point kind of makes Job worth a read, almost; there is a lot of whining in that book.
But you know, this reminds me of something from a science book that I heard read aloud recently on one of my favorite TV shows, Cosmos. Sagan wrote this about a picture of the Earth from space. I love it when science and religion are trying to reveal to us the same truths.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994