Scripture to meditate on:
“I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.
For what is our lot from God above,
our heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?
“If I have walked with falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit—
let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless—
if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.
“If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door,
then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
For that would have been wicked,
a sin to be judged.
It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
“If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
whether male or female,
when they had a grievance against me,
what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
“If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless—
but from my youth I reared them as a father would,
and from my birth I guided the widow—
if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or the needy without garments,
and their hearts did not bless me
for warming them with the fleece from my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.
“If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor,
so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
“If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against their life—
if those of my household have never said,
‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveler—
if I have concealed my sin as people do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside—
(“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
I would present it to him as to a ruler.)—
“if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
then let briers come up instead of wheat
and stinkweed instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.” – Job 31
Lest there be any doubt, Job sets out in this chapter to inventory his innocence. Perhaps he is, after all, operating with the same basic retribution theology as his three friends. He defends his moral conformity as a way to insist that he does not deserve his suffering. This argument only makes sense in a system where one believes that suffering is only caused by sin.
While most people think of sin as failing to obey God’s “rules of conduct”, Jesus taught that one could meticulous keep the moral law and still be far from the heart of God. In fact, that was precisely the condition that Jesus saw in the lives of the Pharisees of his day.
Flannery O’Connor in her novel Wise Blood takes this idea a step further, noting, “The way to avoid Jesus is to avoid sin.”
Our culture is full of people who believe they can avoid Jesus as savior by keeping all the moral laws. Their inventory of innocence might well sound like Job’s check list in Chapter 31; (Do not commit fraud. Check. Do not commit murder. Check. Do not leer at virgins. Check.)
But steering clear of the ‘big sins’ does not make one righteous before God, anymore than it insured that Job’s material blessings would be preserved.
“Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing.” – Job 31:35
Questions to ponder:
- What do you think Flannery O’Connor means when she writes, “the way to avoid Jesus is to avoid sin”?
- Have you ever used your “good behavior” to try to bargain with God?
- Is it possible you still believe you could earn God’s blessing?