While intellectuals bicker about the problem of evil, real people live out their lives daily plagued with poverty, malnutrition, exploitation, ... the list goes on. Sure, there's an intellectual game to be made of squaring the concept of an omnibenevolent God with the real state affairs on earth, but in the end, it's a mind game, an intellectual exercise. But injustice, that's real. Good people have crappy lives, and crappy people have great lives. Life is unfair. Karma does not pan out. The good, the innocent, the faithful suffer. What, as Christians, do we make of this? Job 21 and Job 24 have been on my mind these days. Essentially, Job is pissed, and rightly so. From his perspective, life sucks, and life seems to suck the most for good people. What, then, is the point in being righteous? In obeying God?
"Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days? Men move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen. They drive away the orphan's donkey and take the widow's ox in pledge. They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding. Like wild donkeys in the desert, the poor go about their labor of foraging food; the wasteland provides food for their children. They gather fodder in the fields and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. They are drenched by mountain rains and hug the rocks for lack of shelter. The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. Lacking clothes, they go about naked; they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. They crush olives among the terraces; they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst. The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing." Job 24:1-12
This is a tough passage. This is the sort of passage that knocks me down, reminding me that my life is blessed in ways I don't think I'll ever fully appreciate. This is not the sort of passage that gets cross-stitched and hung on the wall, or sung with enthusiasm on a Sunday morning. This is the sort of passage we pass over, not understanding, not wanting to meditate on. But we should stop. We should pay attention. Job is being honest. Job is angry. Job recognizes that not only to some people get the shaft, but they work really hard, live righteous lives, and still God turns his face away from them. It's one thing to study justice, to study how the world should be. It's another thing to take an honest look at how the world really is.
For me, God embodies ultimate justice. Yet. Yet where is that justice here? If God were truly just, if He truly loved his children, if He really heard their petitions, the world would look much different. Wouldn't it? Like Job, we can look at the injustice that reigns on earth and we can be angry. We can be angry at God. When we're not angry, we're often defeated. We give up. What's the point in trying when I know I can't make a difference and I know that other people just don't care? Therein lies the danger.
What is God's response to Job? Who are you compared to me? I am God. Remember that. Who are you and who am I?
That's not the sort of response Job was looking for. He wanted God to fix things. He wanted God to bring justice. He wanted God to admit that things weren't right. But instead God gave him some major perspective. When I look at injustice, do I ever think to myself, God is God? He is the great I am, the Alpha, the Omega, the Almighty, the Majestic. Not hardly. But, maybe I should.
May my response be: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42
This, of course, is not an acceptable answer to the world. But, it never is. Sometimes the right response is: yeah, life here is messed up. But hey, God is God. That's all I need to know. I'll obey Him. I will pursue justice. I will be aligned with the Victor.
More on this soon.