Job 29:11-16 (ESV)
When the ear heard, it called me blessed,
and when the eye saw, it approved,
because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
In chapter 29, Job reminisces about is life before pain. He was comfortable and respected. The young men stepped out of his way, and the old men stood out of respect for him. His home was clean, beautiful, and comfortable. Life was good. He then reflects on his righteousness. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban” (Job 29:14). What I find fascinating is how he describes his righteousness.
If someone were to ask you to describe your righteousness, how would you describe it? Odds are it would go something like this: “I waited until marriage to have sex. I never cheated on my spouse. I don’t drink or smoke, and have never gotten drunk. I don’t go to “R” rated movies, and read my Bible and pray almost every day.” I find it interesting that our list of righteous deeds is so different from Job’s. Yes, he will mention morality in chapter 31, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). But in 31 chapters that is the only place that I recall sexual morality being mentioned. Job’s understanding of righteousness is so much broader than that, while we act as though that is righteousness.
Job’s perspective on righteousness centers primarily around helping the poor, the needy, and the less fortunate. “I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know” (Job 29:16). This reminds me of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:10. After explaining how he was in agreement with the Apostles on the gospel and call to ministry, he then comments, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Galatians is about the gospel. It is about the very foundation of our faith. It is about how the Christian life is entered into, and lived out. What does that have to do with remembering the poor? Yet that appears to be so important to both Paul and the other Apostles that they make mention of it along with the gospel.
Perhaps we need to rethink God’s perspective on holiness and righteousness. What if it is more important to God that I help the poor than whether I take a sip of alcohol? What if it is more important to God that I work to bring justice to those who have been mistreated than that I only watch the “right” movies and TV shows? What if my understanding of righteousness has been developed more by church culture than by the heart of God? I don’t have the answers, but this chapter raises these questions in my mind. They cause me to go before the Lord in humility, asking for discernment and the heart of God. They cause me to look at my world differently. They are questions worth pondering.
What if, after all my years in church and ministry, I still don’t get what God is really passionate about? Jesus said that the whole of the Law and Prophets (another way of saying the Old Testament) is summed up in these two commands: Love God. Love your neighbor (Mt 22:37-40). I’m not sure we have understood what he really meant by those words. Father teach us today.