Sunday, March 15, 2009


It's almost too easy to come up with parallels between any Bible passage about money and today's economy, hence the title of this entry on Job 22. Maybe today's passage is of particular relevance because we're living in a time when people are especially keen to make judgments about all things fiscal—the markets, the stimulus packages, government spending, crooked CEO bonuses . . . every dollar spent by every person in America is suddenly under scrutiny. You can't buy a pack of juicy fruit these days without a cashier or fellow shopper raising an eyebrow as if to say, "Really? In this economy? Shouldn't you be sticking with something more conservative, like spearmint?"

People love holding other people to certain standards to which they themselves only pretend to adhere. Or sometimes, we simply consider ourselves and other common people to be exempt. It's this Common Exemption that allows a woman to think her best friend is beautiful while calling Julia Roberts ugly. The Common Exemption empowers us to praise our children for their soccer skills one day and to yell, "Hey, Jeter, you suck!" the next. It's this Common Exception that lets someone who cheats on their taxes still get angry about executives getting bailout money.

And with that attitude, we can certainly empathize with Eliphaz. He made a strong argument about man's inability to assist God as if God were in need of our assistance. He then resumed the chorus bemoaning Job's sinfulness, although Eliphaz was the first to single out a particular sin that may have caused his downfall. Eliphaz called Job greedy and indifferent to the needs of others. That was why God punished him, and if he renounced his greed and pride and all-around wickedness, God would forgive Job.

We know from reading the text, however, that Eliphaz was dead wrong. That, to me, makes this particular batch of counsel the steamiest pile of horse crap I've sniffed so far in this book.

There are three things, in my book, about which you should very rarely confront another person (or even subtly refer to in casual conversation with any tone of negativity or judgment), and even then the matter should be approached with the utmost caution and sensitivity:

Their kids
Their marriage
Their money

Never make negative comments about someone else's child. If you have kids, such criticism serves as an official invitation for your own kids to be insulted. If you think your kids are perfect, ask around and be disabused of that delusion at once. If you don't have kids, you better be trained pretty darned well (and be willing to help) before you even begin to dole out the advice—and it had better be delivered with convincing humility as well.

Same goes for the marriage commentary. Do it with discretion and in humility or prepare to have your own relationship (or lack of one) verbally and imaginatively skewered.

But money . . . oh, money is the trickiest of all, because we're so very artful at disguising our judgment, hiding it neatly behind a smile and an all-too-polite, "Ooh, nice shoes!" The truth is, we can all find something to critique about anyone if we try. They're too rich. They're too poor. They flaunt it. They're cheap. They make rotten investment decisions. They brag too much about their donations. They don't give at all . . . at least I've never heard them talk about it. They're so very pleased with themselves. They'll never be satisfied.

Best bet? Talk about the weather, and move on to the next chapter.

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