Rev Canon Dr John Senyonyi
Wealth and godliness are two words we do not ordinarily associate. How many stinking rich people can you name in Uganda (or elsewhere) who are exemplars of godly living?
Besides, devout Christians with great wealth face temptations of pride and profligate living. It is easier for us to think that great wealth was ill-gotten.
Of course this is a generalization, and there are exceptions, but at the same time, it is hard for one to be wealthy and maintain a godly life. The wisest man of all, Solomon, started out desiring to do God’s will but ended up far off from God!
That is what stands Job in holy stead! He, unlike many, augmented his wealth with steadfast trust in God. His holdings may not appear impressive compared to today’s financial magnates. After all, what are 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 donkeys, plus a host of servants? Yet in his context and in his day, he was the wealthiest “of all the people of the east”.
The second quality, which commends him to us, is how he related his wealth to his relationship with God. Wealth tempts us to seek recognition from others, but he was meticulous to keep God the main focus of his wealth. He had an audience of one – that is, God.
I heard of a wealthy Ugandan who was not introduced with all his titles at a public function in the presence of the President. He went and whispered to the master of ceremonies to be reintroduced! Job, on the other hand, was contented with this: If God saw, all was fine. He did not want anything to stand between him or his children and his God.
Hence the LORD boasted to Satan about Job’s trust in Him! He boasted over two qualities: Job feared God and hated evil. Of course the latter flows out of the first. Job pleased God. God’s boast was not about Job’s wealth.
Furthermore, Job did not succumb to Satan’s ‘gospel’, which is no gospel at all! Satan claimed that Job served God well because he was healthy and wealthy, and that without wealth and health, he would forsake his God.
Satan’s gospel supposes that faith is upheld by our wellbeing!
This gospel, which is familiar to us, is not new at all and is trendy. It has gained fresh popularity among churches propagated by charismatic preachers who ensnare their clueless listeners in their godless unbelief. Beware of Satan’s gospel! There is nothing to be gained by it.
As the Book of Job unfolds, we notice that indeed he too hoped for a good and trouble-free life. He really did not believe in a God who is a ‘kill-joy’ for the righteous. He expected God to take care of and provide for him. When he did not get it, he was hurt and confused. He demanded for answers from God.
However, for him, this was not a transactional relationship. He believed in God with and without his wealth.
He was not watching for a reward for walking righteously. His response to his wife’s rebuke of him is testimony to this. “He said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Unfortunately, his wife believed Satan’s gospel. She thought that God is good when all is fine sailing. She intimated that our good works should be (and are) rewarded in equal measure. Job would take none of this nonsensical theology from his most intimate partner in life.
The flip side of Satan’s gospel came from his friends; it is really reverse reasoning. It says, “If you suffer, you have sin in your life!”
Finally, Job’s faith was not born out of his adversity. He was a man of faith before his trials set in, and a man of faith through his suffering. When Job lost everything his faith was unfazed. His faith sustained him and held fast the anchor of his soul in God.
As news came in showing that his holdings were being decimated one by one, he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job’s faith teaches us that all we have is not ours in the first place. Faith is the sobriety to know God loans us what we have and he is free to take it away. Our vocation must be eternal praises to the Lord in all circumstances, Amen.