Job’s Righteousness: An Actual Comment
It is as if Job in his struggle against God, defending his own righteousness, has little to do with Christian faith as it is commonly perceived. According to St Paul a person is clothed in righteousness by Christ. An individual Christian has no righteousness of his or her own. Through faith in Christ that person will be deemed righteous.
Job begs to differ. He in fact has a case against God. Through the covenant between God and the human, there is a transfer of righteousness from God to the human being in question and the whole community involved that is real.
Job knows that he has not committed any major mistake or sin. However, when God allows Satan to touch Job and bring him into innumerable sufferings, Job’s friends turn up. They are concerned about his health and about his well-being as he has ended up in a family tragedy, total bankruptcy regarding his properties and a personally suffering due to extremely painful diseases. The friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, and even the much younger Elihu, have but one message: when these things happen to you, there must be something that you have done wrong and you must immediately confess that you have sinned, one way or another, grievously against God. They spend a lot of time demonstrating the greatness of God and the smallness, pettiness of the human.
This, however, is nothing new to Job. He knows that God is great, but he also knows that in this instance he has done no wrong; therefore he is angry with God, he even accuses God of wrongdoing, of being unrighteous against him, indeed a tall order.
The end of the story is of course that Job admits to God’s greatness, but not that he has made any major mistake in his life as a local, tribal leader, in charge of a large family, a lot of cattle and vast swathes of land.
Job has got a point here. There is a Christian, pietistic minimalism that is very disturbing, saying that if only you confess your sins things will be alright. And yet, things are not alright. Little, if anything happens, life goes on as before. Time has come to take Job seriously. We need people who take huge responsibility where they are, who also have the guts to see when they are doing things that are right and say it, perhaps even being boisterous without being boastful. All righteousness is from God ultimately; but once it is in our hands, it is for real and we may own it, even if it is on borrowed time.