In the passage today, the self-described sage Elihu shares his unsolicited wisdom with Job. Suffering, in Elihu’s view, is the warning God sends to safeguard someone from sin. This idea reflects the deeply held traditions and religious attitudes that surround divine retribution, when God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. Elihu claims to speak on God’s behalf, but he merely shares his own understanding of how God works. His message isn’t from God.
Elihu’s words focus on the idea that our superior and just God expresses redemptive concern for the unrighteous by afflicting them as a form of spiritual discipline. We hear extensions of this type of thinking in our time, when self-described sages bypass empathy and proclaim that everything happens for a reason or assure us of their conviction that God won’t give us more than we can handle.
This false friend perceives an arrogance in Job that fails to hold him accountable to God. But as we read his story, we see clear indications that Job lives faithfully, such as the way he honestly pours out his emotions to God. Let Elihu be the warning God sends to safeguard us from wrongdoing when we’re tempted to judge another’s relationship with God.
What could we say to share empathy rather than judgment with those who are suffering?
Loving God, grant us the wisdom and insight to convey your love in challenging circumstances. Give us courage to listen for you, speak your words, and bring your light into the darkness. Amen.