Job 15:2-5 (ESV)
“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge,
and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he argue in unprofitable talk,
or in words with which he can do no good?
But you are doing away with the fear of God
and hindering meditation before God.
For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
and you choose the tongue of the crafty.
Eliphaz is offended by Job’s claims. Job claims to be innocent. Job claims that his friends’ insistence that his pain is rooted in sin is inaccurate. Job desires to argue his case before God rather than men. Eliphaz takes offense at that. “You are doing away with the fear of God,” he insists. “Your iniquity teaches your mouth.” Eliphaz is adamant that Job’s plight is the result of sin, and that his sin is now clouding his judgement, his understanding, and his words.
Job 15:17-18 (ESV)
“I will show you; hear me,
and what I have seen I will declare
(what wise men have told,
without hiding it from their fathers,
Eliphaz does what every person does who is convinced that he is right, but can’t defend his position. He appeals to the anonymous “they.” “They say…,” we argue. “People who know about these things believe…,” we say. “Experts agree…,” we defend. Who are “they?” Who are “people?” Who are the “experts?” Eliphaz appeals to the anonymous “wise men,” whoever they are. His words in Job 15 are the words of someone who has been offended because his great wisdom was rejected. The chapter is full of venom and attack. He has nothing good to say about Job. Earlier he tried to help Job by pointing out that there must be some sin in Job’s life. His wisdom was rejected. Now he is hurt, and he is lashing out at Job. “Your iniquity is clouding your judgment,” he says. But, it is Eliphaz’ ego that is clouding his own judgement.
He should be listening better. He accuses Job, “You are doing away with the fear of God
and hindering meditation before God.” But the truth is that Eliphaz is not fearing God nor meditating before him. Eliphaz is relying on his own wisdom. Eliphaz cannot accept the reality that he might be wrong. How often in ministry and in relationships we react with a bruised ego instead of actually listening to others or to God.
Several years ago I preached to a large group of parents and High School graduates. Afterward a friend approached me. “That was a good message,” he said. “But, that verse you used doesn’t say that.” I went back to the verse and took a second look. He was right. The verse I used didn’t say what I claimed it said. I had misused scripture. How do we react when we are challenged? I have not always responded so well. There have been many times when I knew my arguments were weak to start with. When challenged I did exactly what Eliphaz did. I appealed to the anonymous “experts.” I reacted out of a bruised ego. I attacked those who disagreed with me.
Ego is a dangerous thing, especially in ministry. Ego destroys relationships. Ego lashes out at others and causes unnecessary pain. Ego stops listening to either God or man. Ego is about me. Humility, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be right. James wisely counsels, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Jas 4:10). Just a few verses earlier James quotes from Isaiah, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). But what is interesting is where that paragraph in James 4 starts. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you” (James 4:1)? Ego destroys. Self-focused passion tears down. Humility brings healing.
There is Eliphaz, trying to “minister” to Job. But he hasn’t learned to leave his ego at the door. He hasn’t learned that ministry is not about him. It’s not about being right. It’s not about winning. It is about listening, caring, and selfless service. How much damage ego does! How much better to embrace the attitude of Jesus himself.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I love Kate B. Wilkinson’s words which she wrote sometime before 1913:
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May that be true of me today.