My friend Tony explained the story of Job to me tonight. This isimpressive, because I haven't understood that story before, ever.From the moment I first encountered it, probably fifteen years ago ormore, my reaction has always been "Ick. A god like that doesn't deserveour love, it deserves our unyielding and bitter defiance. Job was acoward, and he should have had some pride and spat in God's face, &c."I still don't like the god of Job, but I like the story, I think, a lot.Here it goes, there are three key concepts that made it all comprehensibleto me, and I'm going to write them down before I forget them.First of all, one problem that I've often had with it is the innocentbystanders: sure Job's getting tested, but why do the wife, the daughters&c have to suffer? Tony points out, though, that it isn't meant as anhistorical story, it's a thought experiment, and the thought experiment isabout Job. Everyone else is incidental to the experiment so it isn't fair,in a way, to consider them unduly.
The second, and more important thing that I realized is that forChristians the most important thing in life is to serve God, and to haveFaith in their god. That's what God wants and that's what it's all about,and that's accepted by fiat before the story of Job is ever told. I haveproblems with that, but it isn't fair of me to attack the Job storybecause of my objections to Faith in god. The Story of Job isn't tryingto justify faith in God, which is how I've always interpreted it (andbeen unconvinced) instead it is trying to show that some people will stillhave faith, regardless.
From my perspective, any real relegion should be based on living a goodlife, not on faith in a god... and it turns out that if you interpret theJob story under those guidelines (if you allow that the faithful personlives a good life, and use the two terms interchangably) then it reallyworks for me. I'll explain more about this in a sec.Finally, Tony pointed out that the story is a metaphor for the World, andhuman nature. It isn't intended as a simple fable about how one guy acted,or even just about how individuals should act, but rather as adescription of humanity.
So, yeah. The Story of Job as I now interpret it: The devil claims thatonly happy people have the leisure to be Good (the bible says "Have Faith"but this substitution is necessary for me). So the devil says, sure, Jobis a good man, moral and upstanding, but if his fortunes were reversed, hewould be Evil. God replies, "Ok, well, you have full liscense, you may dowhatever you want to the guy, unleash your full torment on him, let'ssee". Terrible things ensue. Loved ones are taken, wealth, status &c. arestripped, and what not. At the end, the devil thinks, "Ok, he's adisease-ridden homeless pauper with no friends, I bet he ain't such a niceguy anymore." but it turns out that, no, despite everything, Job is stillGood. He's miserable, and confused, but he still has his integrity.As a metaphor for the world, it's saying that human nature is ultimatelyGood, and that no matter how bad things may become in out lives, we canalways make the choice to do good. Even if we have no job and can't afforddinner, we can still give that guy our last quarter for the pay phone...and it's also saying that people will. People are Good, and thereare plenty of people out there how will stay that way regardless of theirpersonal fortunes. I like that message.
Now, regarding Faith, respect and love for the God of Job... well, I thinkthat's ludicrous. I mean, for Christ's sake, it's a god who kills babieson a regular basis -- that's obscene. People have free will, and ninetimes out of ten they choose to do good. However, in real life if we meetthat god, I think we should spit in his eye.