Job 35:9-10 (ESV)
Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out;
they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.
But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
Elihu’s observations here are correct. I believe that his assessment of Job is still faulty, but his assessment of mankind in general is right on. People cry out for help when they are oppressed, but few actually seek God. I’ve watched this in the political debates regarding elections and the good of the country. I heard little discussion about what is good for the country as a whole. Most discussion was about what is good for me, for those I love, or for those like me. What about those who are different from you? Most people seem to be oblivious to the hurts, needs, or realities of anyone other than those in their own little circles.
Similarly, our focus in evangelical Christianity has been more about me, those I love, and sometimes those like me. Evangelism and discipleship have been about a personal relationship with God, but it is about much more. We seek peace. We seek relief. We seek a better life. We seek comfort. But do we seek God? Being a believer is Jesus Christ is about a personal relationship with God, but it is also about a corporate relationship with his people. It is about being the presence of Christ in a broken world. It is about dying for the good of others. It is not about us.
That is the issue that both Job and his friends seem to have lost sight of. Life is not about us. In the early days of the United States of America the founders of this country put their lives, their fortunes, and their reputations on the line for the sake of others. Many of them lost everything for the sake of others. Today, my impression is that most politicians are about power and position. The idea of sacrifice for the good of others is foreign in our political world. But it’s not just politicians. It is rare to read or hear anything these days about personal sacrifice for the good of others. We are quick to take offense for ourselves and our friends, but we are unwilling to serve those who are different. Yet that is exactly what God has called us to.
Discussions of Biblical principles of marriage, for example, almost always focus on what we “have” to do. Do wives really have to submit? Isn’t that demeaning? How can we hold to such an old fashioned, outdated perspective of gender roles? What if our discussions around these passages asked a different question? What if they focused on what we are being asked to sacrifice for the good of another? What if we didn’t ask about what we must give up? What if we asked how to better serve others? What if a husband quit worrying about whether his wife was submitting, and concerned himself about how to best die to his own will in order to serve his wife’s best interest? What if a wife quit worrying about whether she was loved, and concerned herself more with how to die to her own needs in order to serve and show respect to her husband? Isn’t that what those marriage passages are really about?
As believers who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, it is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be safe. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be comfortable. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we are finding joy. C. S. Lewis reminded us that when we search joy we never find it. Maybe that is why we have churches full of grouchy people. Because we’re all trying to find happiness. What a different world it would be if we sought to serve others instead of seeking to be served!
Elihu is right. Everyone seeks relief from pain, but nobody really seeks God. In the name of following Jesus we have become incredibly self-centered people. My challenge for today is to seek the good of others and stop worrying about me. Try it. It might just change your world.