Sunday, June 13, 2021

Serving and Being

“Have you considered my servant Job?”

The jargon believers use with one another often sounds a little unusual to those unfamiliar with it, something of which I was jarringly reminded during a conversation a few weeks back with an unsaved friend. I lapsed momentarily into incomprehensible Churchian and unthinkingly used a euphemism to describe a Bible teacher with whom we are both acquainted.

I called him a “servant of the Lord”.

Servant?” my friend remarked. “What a strange thing to say!”

A Strange Thing to Say

And I suppose she’s right, at least from her perspective. To the extent that the unsaved think about God at all, it is usually to charge him with the crime of not stepping into human history to prevent some recent cataclysm or yet another of the evils we like to perform on our fellow creatures. The natural man has difficulty coming to grips with the idea of a Creator at all, let alone a God who is deeply invested in his creation and desires a loving and intimate relationship with men. Add to that the very foreign concept of servitude, when the spirit of our age is all about individuality and “freedom” to do whatever you please at every moment, and you have something in the Christian notion of service toward God that the natural mind doesn’t easily track.

Christians are so used to hearing the word “servant” that we rarely think much anymore about what the metaphor was originally intended by the writers of scripture — and indeed by God himself — to convey.

The Service of Job

So then, in what sense was Job God’s “servant”? What does that even mean? God used the word to Satan as naturally and casually as I used it in the aforementioned conversation. It wasn’t a strange idea to him, and apparently it wasn’t a foreign notion to Satan either.

But Job was no prophet, no priest, no Levite, no king, no administrator, no judge, no Nazirite ... no religious leader of any kind. He held no clerical portfolio. He wasn’t a full-time religious anything. He was farmer and owner of livestock: sheep, camels, donkeys and oxen. He fathered children, built houses and managed his household. He was wealthy, sure, but in many other ways he was just like his unbelieving neighbors. He was living life like we all do, and his day would have been full of ordinary tasks which he had to either perform himself or delegate to others.

Just like every one of us.

Ordinary Service

So, then, in what exactly did Job’s service consist, if not in formal religious duties?

Well, I think the man answers that question very nicely himself in chapter 31, which is a sort of final appeal to his friends to stop accusing him of bringing judgment upon himself by living unrighteously. It’s a bit self-justifying, of course, but I don’t think his intent is to brag. He is simply laying out the facts for his listeners, and he is so sure of what he is saying that he actually invokes a series of curses on himself (“then let me sow and another eat”, “then let my wife grind for another”, “then let my arm be broken from its socket”) in the event what he is saying turns out not to be true. At very least we should acknowledge that he believed what he was saying. He wasn’t blowing smoke.

So here is how Job served God:

  1. He exercised sexual restraint and self-control (“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”).
  2. He told the truth (“Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!”).
  3. He refused to indulge covetous thinking (“If I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door ... that would be a heinous crime”).
  4. He applied the Golden Rule to his dealings with his servants (“Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?”).
  5. He was generous to the poor (“If I withheld anything that the poor desired ... or have eaten my morsel alone ...”).
  6. He refused to be confident in his wealth (“If I have made gold my trust ...”).
  7. He did not indulge spite (“If I have rejoiced in the ruin of him who hated me ...”).
  8. He did not pretend to be anything he wasn’t (“If I have concealed my transgressions ...”).
  9. He was a responsible custodian of the earth (“If my land has cried out against me ... if I have eaten its yield without payment ...”).
  10. He interceded with God for the members of his family (“He would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all”).

Most importantly, Job didn’t do any of these things in order to impress his neighbors. He didn’t do them so he could pat himself on the back, or as an exercise in character development. He didn’t do them for ideological or philosophical reasons. He didn’t do them for the betterment of society or in hope of turning his world into a utopia.

Making the Lord Lord

Job lived the way he lived for one reason: he feared God. Not just respected, but literally feared. He walked every moment of his life in the awareness that God was looking at him, weighing him and examining him, and so he made every move in conscious acknowledgement of that reality.

That is the sense in which Job was a servant; that he made the Lord ... well ... lord. Lord as in master, boss, ruler. Lord as in the determining factor in every major and minor decision. Job allowed God to call the shots in every aspect of his life. He was one of the very first men on record to actually present his body to God as a living sacrifice. That was the reason the Lord could say to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

We often think of serving and being as two separate aspects of the Christian life. They are not. They are one and the same. Every Christian is a servant every minute.

How about that? Maybe we should get to it.

No comments :

Post a Comment