Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mr, Perfect?

Women have their Proverbs 31, the chapter in the Bible that defines the so-called ideal woman (though some would call her the "shyeah, good luck" woman). She's the gold standard, Princess Di meets Martha Stewart meets Mother Teresa. I'm not gonna touch that topic . . . well, maybe I'll just graze it and say that I think it's more about prioritizing meaningful qualities over superficial ones than it is about setting a standard for women to live up to.

But the male counterpart to that passage is Job 31. Suffice it to say that this final statement from Job made his old friends shut up. (Of course, that gave his younger compadre the chance to deliver the sermon he'd been sitting on, but that's tomorrow's adventure.)

This chapter is one that the average guy (and his above- and below-average friends) can't get very far into without feeling convicted. You know, like the first verse. But that first verse is a winner. So helpful. So self-explanatory. So . . . let's move on and save the lurid descriptions for the saints and sinners alike who make their money off that kinda thing.

So Job was pure. He was honest. He was just. He was merciful. He was compassionate. He was generous. He controlled his tongue. He was kind and respectful to his enemies. He was hospitable. He trusted in God, not his possessions. He regarded the wonders of nature as the work of God, not gods in and of themselves. He was accountable. 

And if Job had any law to tell him that all this was the right way to be, we have absolutely no record of it. In all likelihood, Job was pre-10 Commandments. He was pre-Law (and possibly pre-Med). Yet, Job knew more about right and wrong than most Christians, myself embarrassingly included. And here's my favorite part: Job's explanation why he carried himself this way. 

I have heard and read a lot of talk about the proper motivation for a believer to do good works. Notions like, You shouldn't do it for personal gain, or God doesn't want us to obey to avoid punishment, or, Doing good is only good if you do it because you want to do it. I've always thought those arguments were baloney, and it seems like Job agrees. In verse 23, he stated it pretty simply:

"For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things."

Job knew, or at least he believed, that if he didn't obey God, God would mess him up something serious. Why? There is ample evidence that Job witnessed many an evil person enjoying their punishment-free lifestyle. But Job believed in consequences that were neither immediate nor readily apparent. He believed in a holy God, and that was enough to stop him from sinning.

It begs the question (serious, on its knees, groveling interrogatively): When I sin over and over and over again, can I really claim to believe in a holy God? And the converse, if I believe in a holy God, can I continue doing things I know (with infinitely more overtly communicated detail in God's Word than Job ever received) are wrong?

No. I don't think I can. 

So, step 1: believe in and fear God. Repeat every moment of every day. Unrealistic? I don't think so.

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