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I Hate the Book of Job

There’s a reason, other than sloth, that this blog has been neglected. See, I had already mentally written my next post – it was going to tell you all about this huge opportunity that fell into my lap out of the clear blue sky, an opportunity that would have given me a far broader audience and broader canvas – one that would ultimately allow me to have a national impact. Best of all,  I would have had a job that would have actually paid me a living wage to write this stuff. It seemed the culmination of everything I had ever done, and, for a brief moment, it brought into focus the idea of a life that make use of my talents and would have been fun, meaningful, and fraught with purpose.

As you can probably tell by now, it was not to be. After a slew of interviews that I thought went well and weeks of waiting, I got one of those “thanks but no thanks” phone calls, and it’s not going to happen.

God and I haven’t really made peace with that.

For the past few years, the Cornell family has been wrung through the ringer in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when Mrs. Cornell and I tied the knot back in 1994. We’ve been yanked every which way – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually – and none of it seems to make any sense. We keep looking for the pony in the pile of horse crap, and it’s just not there. So I turned to the one scriptural source that’s supposed to explain why bad things happen to good people – the Book of Job.

Big, big mistake.

The one lesson that everyone seems to glean from Job is that people don’t necessarily deserve the garbage that’s dumped on their heads in the course of their mortality. What they fail to mention is that the God of the Book of Job is an arrogant, obnoxious twit who maliciously tinkers with people’s lives in order to win a bar bet with Satan.

If I’ve misstated the book’s central thesis, I’m open to other interpretations.

The book begins with Satan showing up at God’s house, and God asking his ol’ pal the Prince of Darkness for the news of the day. Ummmm, does this bother anyone else? Isn’t Satan supposed to be the embodiment of evil in the universe, cast out of heaven for rebellion? I can’t seem to get God to pay attention to my job interviews, yet he apparently has an open door policy with the Fount of All Wickedness.

Already, things seem askew.

So God, presumably over brunch or some such, says to the devil, “Hey, check out that Job dude! He loves me! Isn’t he awesome?” And the devil – who makes a whole lot more sense than God does in this particular tale – points out that this Job guy might not love God so much if someone were to slaughter his ten children, destroy his livelihood, ransack his wealth, and generally destroy everything that made his life worthwhile.

So what does God say? “All right, try it. Let’s see!”

How on earth does one reconcile this with the idea that God is kind, merciful, and loving? Furthermore, how does one reconcile it with the idea that he’s omniscient? He already knows what Job’s going to do, but he’s willing to step out of the way and let Satan mutilate Job’s life to… what? Prove a point to Satan? Is God that insecure?

So Satan, with God’s blessing, proceeds to wreak havoc, and… guess what? Job doesn’t curse God. So Satan says, “Well, what if I give him lots of boils and make him stew in his own filth?” God, apparently still really concerned that Satan might win this little wager, gives the green light to the boil plan.

Job still won’t curse God. Instead, he just curses the day he was born and wishes he were dead.

Put this in human terms. I love my wife more than anyone else alive. But, yes, I would love her a lot less if she killed my kids, ran off with everything I owned, and somehow deliberately infected me with the Bubonic Plague. And you know what? I probably wouldn’t have nice things to say about her. What’s more, I probably would have a hard time with anyone making the case that my wife, in this fictional kid-killing, mange-producing scenario, actually loved me, especially if she were doing all this to settle a bet with a demon she met on the Internet.

Why shouldn’t Job curse God? God, in this story, is a full-on jerk.

Everyone cites the end of the story, where Job gets back all his stuff – and more! He even gets ten new and better kids to replace those lousy dead ones – all presumably produced from the womb of the same wife. (Twenty kids! Isn’t God really punishing Mrs. Job?) So the moral of the story is – wade through the crap, and then, someday, God will make up for it. Except that’s not what God himself says in the story. Indeed, the award of the replacement kids and extra cows is given as arbitrarily as the boils were applied earlier on. When asked to explain his inscrutable – and unspeakably cruel – purposes in this whole nightmare, God shows up in a cloud and pretty much berates Job for asking questions. I created the universe, he says, and you didn’t, so who are you to ask why I decided to give you boils?

Yikes.

There are some marvelous isolated passages in the Book of Job, and the Savior himself quotes from it, so it’s hard to reject the whole thing outright. But it’s so woefully incongruous with what we learn of the Lord elsewhere that I refuse to believe that God really operates this way. The alternative is to presume that God really is this arbitrary and flighty, in the which case he is not a God in whom I can place any faith, let alone love.

As you can tell, I’ve had better days.

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  1. I thought I was the only one. A year ago, I was feeling very down and turned to the book of Job for comfort. I had not previously experienced “comfort” from reading Job but decided to give it another try. My wife, friends, pastors, everyone all seemed to rave about it. It was worse than I remembered. Satan can go to God and ask permission to f*** me up anytime he feels like it, just like he did Job. God may say yes, or He may not, who knows? Contemplate this: Job was blameless. BLAMELESS! And he still got whacked. I’m definitely not blameless. I don’t have a chance.
    Has anything changed for you since you wrote this? I’d like to hear you say that you were just in a selfish, self-centered funk at the time you wrote this, and that you’ve since had a huge enlightenment on the big message in Job, and that it is indeed encouraging. But I’m not holding my breath.
    Every sermon or commentary I can remember always overlooks what I incredulously thought was the obvious: That God willy-nilly approved Satan’s request to f*** up Job, a BLAMELESS man – one without sin. Job was perfect. Job loved God and God loved Job. But Job still got whacked. Then the voice says to me “If Job was blameless and God still let Satan whack him, then you, my friend, have zero chance of being spared since you’re FAR from blameless.” I re-read Job. I didn’t get a profound sense of hope, I got hopelessness and despair.
    I like your line “I can’t seem to get God to pay attention to my job interviews, yet he apparently has an open-door policy with the Fount of All Wickedness.” “Open-door policy”, “Fount of All Wickedness (with capital letters)” – classics.
    Here’s my synopsis of Job:
    • Job was blameless Blameless! I think that may be a word in Hebrew only used to describe Jesus. Well, up until Job came along that is.
    • Devil asked God’s permission to F*** up Job.
    • God said sure, knock yourself out, go ahead.
    • Devil opens a can of apocalyptic woop-ass on Job.
    • Job loses everything. Devil kills his family, cows, goats, chickens – you name it – strips Job of everything. Job is left sitting in shit picking the scabs off his body with a sharp rock.
    • How does the story turn out? Life is suffering. But wait! Job gets everything back ten-fold! Am I the only one that thinks that sounds a bit creepy, like loved ones resurrecting as in Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery.
    • Job was blameless. Blameless! And he still got F****d. He never saw it coming.
    • I’m far from blameless so why should I expect anything less.
    • God may or may not grant Satan’s request to f*** me today. I’ll never know, and I won’t see it coming.
    • Sorry, I just don’t see any hope in that.
    • I think I’m missing out on an intimate relationship with God because of this lack of trust and my fear of abandonment. I just can’t get past this weird-ass Job story. Bummer.

    Jeff B, San Diego, May 8, 2018.