Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 119:49-72, Job 30:1–31, Acts 14:19-28. John 11:1-16
While describing his miserable lot, Job says the children of men he “would have disdained to set with the dogs” of his flock are now mocking him. He calls them a “senseless, disreputable brood” and offers as evidence the difficult lives they have led since being “driven out from society.” However, despite his own struggles, he does not seem to empathize with them. He claims to have “wept for those in trouble” and “grieved for the poor,” but his sympathies have definite limits. If irony were money his wealth would have been restored.
We can be a lot like Job. When bad things happen to us, we call it unfair. When bad things happen to other people, especially because of their own choices, part of us wants to believe things would have been different for us. Job’s friends insist he must be guilty of something partly because they are terrified to contemplate a world where they might suffer the same lot. In a less obvious way even young Elihu, who does not find Job guilty of anything, separates himself from Job by claiming Job’s suffering must be meant to instruct him in some special way. Not one of them accepts that fortune and misfortune are blind to virtue.
We don’t like to admit virtue is largely a matter of circumstance. While there are a few people of extraordinary character who rise above terrible experiences, and a few who are evil despite almost ideal upbringings, most of us are in large part who we were raised to be. We can’t honestly claim we are good (or better) in and of ourselves. A universe that favored the virtuous would actually be a universe that favored the lucky. God loves us all equally – lucky and unlucky, righteous and unrighteous – whether we are Job or the disreputable brood.
Why strive to be virtuous at all then? Because we seek a right relationship with God at all times. Not to earn God’s love or grace which are given freely, but to experience the eternal life – even in times of suffering – promised to us by Jesus.
Comfort: God understands and loves us all.
Challenge: Share a meal or cup of coffee with someone who is going through a bad time. Do not pity or advise them – just be there.
Prayer: God of earth and seed, plant empathy in my heart. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever gotten into a debate that generated a lot of heat and little or no light?
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