Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

10/1/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Book of Job is one of the treasures of the Bible. It reveals a truth about authentic spirituality to every age

These "friends of Job" seem to be everywhere these days. They fill the pulpits of some of Americas fastest growing "mega churches". They flood our airwaves with their claims of health, wealth, prosperity and blessing for those who "really" get the Gospel, at least the Gospel they preach

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/1/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Job, suffering, struggle, prosperity, povery, spirituality, hersy, health and wealth, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - In the first reading of today's Liturgy we are presented with the story of Job. (Job 1:6-22) It is one of the most profound, disturbing, yet incredible helpful Old Testament stories because it reveals something of such an important New Testament insight. Things aren't always the way they seem or feel. Our God, in the words of the Psalmist, "never sleeps not slumbers". (Psalm 121:4) 

This is a troubling and difficult time for so many people. Over and over again, I have heard the sad stories of financial setbacks, as the U.S. economy has seemingly lost all of its steam and people are watching their retirement funds, their homes and their savings vanish. When we look around us it seems the entire world is "on the brink".
 
I have seen so much serious illness in the lives of good people whom I love. I -and those whom I love the most - have had relational, emotional and physical struggles on almost every front. Sound familiar? Let's be honest. Life is often difficult. That is the case even when you are praying, being as faithful as you can to Lord and His Church. Pain just seems to be a part of the program.

I have experienced my share of "fair-weather" friends in my life. You know the kind that I mean. They are there with you when everything is flourishing, claiming they "have your back." They love to be there in the picture with you, smiling and enjoying identification with someone who is perceived as "successful", whether it is on the financial, career or even the "spiritual" front. However, when the storms come and the leaves begin to fall, when the difficulties of life throw a proverbial "wrench" in the works, they are quickly gone, having dropped you, as they say "like a bad habit."

It is only in these, my later years, that I have begun to understand there is an even worse kind of false "friend". These are the ones I refer to as the "friends of Job". I believe that most of us have experienced them. The sooner we come to understand the danger that their false teaching poses, the happier we will all be. These are the folks who claim to have somehow "figured God out" as though the Christian life were some kind of puzzle.

They act as though following the Lord involves living out a formula. They fail to speak of the fact that those who embrace His way will walk, as He did, along a rugged road. After all, we follow in the footsteps of a Savior who's greatest act of Love, His self giving embrace of death on a Cross, was deemed by most who witnessed it to be His complete failure.

These "friends of Job" seem to be everywhere these days. They fill the pulpits of some of Americas fastest growing "mega churches". They flood our airwaves with their claims of health, wealth, prosperity and blessing for those who "really" get the Gospel, at least the Gospel they preach. Sometimes it is what St Paul warned of as "another gospel" (Gal. 1:6), which reduces our walk with God to following a formula. These "friends of Job" are quick to wrongly judge when difficulties come into the lives of good people, as they inevitably will.

The Book of Job is one of the treasures of the Bible. It reveals a truth about authentic spirituality to every age. The background of the Book is a dispute between Satan, whom the New Testament rightly refers to as the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10), and God. Satan contends that Job served God for what He got from Him not for who God is. How rampant is this kind of self interested service of God in some of the Christian circles in our own time? How many self styled teachers seek to reduce Christian living to formulas?

At the beginning of this book we find the mystery of true faith. After his own wife told him to "curse God and die" Job spoke these words of caution and then wisdom, "Are even you going to speak as senseless women do? We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:10) In the midst of his discourse with three friends, he added the following acclamation which gets to the heart of the mettle of this man named Job, ".even if he slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15)

These words were spoken to the self professed "experts" who had come to tell him how he could get out of the mess if he just followed their formulaic approach to religious living. They need to be shouted in some places in our own day. Job was fully surrendered to God. He refused to turn God into an object for His own use. He grasped the true mystery of a faith that really saves.

When we first encounter the "friends of Job" at the beginning of the Book they seem empathetic, tearing their cloaks, weeping and even spending a week with him in his anguish. But, their feigned compassion ends all too soon. They have something to tell Job, that is why they really came to be with him. They were not "compassionate", in the Biblical sense. The ancient words in Hebrew and Greek translated "compassion" mean "to suffer with".

They had no interest in entering into Jobs pain but in blaming him and his behavior for it. After all, they had this whole faith thing "figured out" and they were going to enlighten him with their higher knowledge. Sound familiar? Perhaps in contemporary circles they would have given him the "latest" teaching from their superstar pastor or the new speaker making the circuit who had it all figured out, along with some formulaic use of bible texts to prove their point.

Or, perhaps they would have given him the latest popular book from the local Christian book store promising that if he just followed these seven, or eight or even twelve steps. all the pain would go away. After all, Jobs life was a mess, right? He was "obviously" not really living for God or he would not be suffering or abandoned. Right? Wrong!

These "wearisome comforters" (Job 16:2-4), as Job later calls them, reveal their true agendas in their errant assessment of Jobs suffering and their false recommendations for his deliverance from them. They think they have the "answer" for life's deepest mystery, suffering. They do not. No one does. In their counterfeit "answers" we find the greatest dangers to authentic faith. These false teachings are still wreaking havoc in too many lives.

In response to their long winded discourse, Job tells them all to be to be silent because they are "uttering falsehoods" and offering "vain remedies". So, in our day, the self appointed guardians of "the formulas" are still wrong. Oh, for the voice of a Job in some of our contemporary Christian communities. Enough of the formulas, the claims to hidden "knowledge" (a new form of Gnosticism) and the claims of being able to manipulate the power of God to achieve our own ends (a new kind of simony). The byways are filled with wounded people who have suffered as a result of such poor teaching.

Let's look at their explanations of Jobs difficulties for a moment. I know they will sound familiar to you. Elephaz the Temanite tells Job that God is mad at Him (Job 5). Bildad the Shuhite tells Job that his misfortunes are his own fault. (Job 8). Finally, Zophar the Naamathite tells Job that he is being punished. (Job 11). All of them were wrong then. and their spiritual descendants are just as wrong today.

Job was right. In fact, he was living in the heart of God's will. When Job was stripped of what his "friends" believed were the "proofs" of Gods favor, he found the greatest treasure of all, the beautiful poverty of purified Love. He found the richness reserved for those who love God for God's sake. Jobs "friends" told him that his loss and difficulties were his fault, but Job knew better. In his unwavering hope in Gods love and mercy we find the way of purified faith.

The Lord not only heard the prayer of this faithful servant Job but He also spoke to these "friends of Job" in these words addressed to Elephaz the Temanite: "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."

In sincere contrition, Job acknowledged in a profound dialogue with God that he simply did not understand His mind on these kinds of matters. He repented for his lack of trust and interceded for these "friends" who had wrongly accused him (Job 42:8). After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord again made him prosperous. Oh, there was quite an encounter between Job and the Lord. It is well worth reading.

Job showed his humility and the Lord restored him after strongly, but lovingly, instructing him. His brothers, sisters and those who knew him before the struggles came and dined with him. The Lord gave him double what he had lost; fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. He had seven sons, three daughters and lived a hundred and forty years. He saw his children and his grandchildren to the fourth generation.

The greatest gift that God gave to Job was real, purified faith. God answered Jobs' sincere, heartfelt prayer for insight into his struggles when He spoke to him "out of a storm" (Job 38). That's right, God was right there in that storm! He always is. He always turns the difficulties, struggles, pain, betrayals, loss..in each of our lives to "good", as St Paul would centuries later remind the early Christians (Romans 8:28).

This stormy encounter between Job and God is reminiscent of another storm, the one we read about in the New Testament on the Sea of Galilee. There, the disciples were with God Incarnate, Jesus Christ in a boat (Matthew 8: 23-27). He was asleep. Terrified, they woke Him and He calmed the storm. In His sacred humanity, asleep in that boat, he showed them an important truth they would later come to grasp as they lived their lives as witnesses for Jesus Christ.

He was already there, right in the storm, they just needed to trust and rest in Him. In Jesus Christ, this God of Job came among us in the flesh. In His sacred humanity He reveals the way to live free of fear, even in the midst of the struggles and storms of life. He emptied Himself out of perfect love for the whole human race. He seeks men and women who will love in that same way, following Him. He calls them the "poor in spirit" and gives them His kingdom. These are the ones who really know how to love and how to live. They do not love for a return but love for Loves' sake.

Job did not follow God because He was so good to him, but because he is God. So should we. When we encounter the inevitability of loss, suffering, difficulties and persecution in our lives, as we certainly will, we must always beware of the friends of Job. We must also choose to follow the One who never sleeps nor slumbers.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... continue reading


The Parable of the Rich Man: Becoming Rich in What Matters To God

Image of

By Deacon Frederick K. Bartels

What leads to permanent and lasting happiness? As Jesus points out, becoming "rich in what matters to God" is the key. When we place God first, and love our neighbor as another self, we soon begin to experience a perceptible, lasting happiness that is not of this ... continue reading


Pope Paul VI closer to sainthood with beatification by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Paul VI cleaned house, abolishing the pontifical court and simplifying the Curia, the Vatican's administrative arm. Pope Francis is continuing his predecessor's effort to reform to this day.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis cleared the process for sainthood for Pope Paul VI after his beatification over the weekend. Pope Paul VI led the Catholic Church through internal reform during a tumultuous time of social and political change before his death in 1978. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


We Need Courageous Bishops: Ignatius of Antioch is a Model Watch

Image of Ignatius of Antioch - I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

We need Bishops like Ignatius in this new missionary age of the Church. There is a literal assault on marriage and the family in much of the West. Yet, what the Church has to offer on the truth about marriage and the family paves the path to a future of true ... continue reading


Need a chapel? Pope Francis to rent Sistine Chapel for charity Watch

Image of Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity. The decision marks the first time that the chapel has ever been rented out for charity. It will be used for a private concert hosted by Porsche. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has announced ... continue reading


On World Food Day, a reminder of Pope Francis' mission for the Church Watch

Image of It's time to ensure that everybody has enough.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Today is World Food Day and we are all called to do what we can to feed others. This year's World Food Day falls during Pope Francis' 'Week of Action' where all Catholics are called to pray and act to feed the world's hungry. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today, ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The only thing that counts for Jesus is 'faith working through love' Watch

Image of Pope Francis related former Jesuit leader Father Arrupe's lesson in humility in his recent talk.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis reiterated in his morning homily that faith is not about appearances and superficially following Church laws. The Pontiff said that God wants to see a faith that inspires action and is "working in charity" and making sacrifices for others. LOS ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter