everyman – a reflection on Job 1:1; 2:1-10

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Lectionary / Religion / Wisdom Literature / Year B

The following is a reflection on Job 1:1; 2:1-10, the Hebrew Bible Lesson appointed for Proper 22B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.

Mississippi Gulf House Post-Katrina

Mississippi Gulf House Post-Katrina. Photo by Rick Morley.

There once was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.

Job opens with a certain “once upon a time” quality to it, in a make-believe land that no one has ever heard of.

In this half verse Job is introduced as “everyman.” Attached to no time and to no place in particular, he represents us all.

Here we are all Uzzians. We are all Job.

That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

By the second half of the first verse the “everyman” nature of Job is taken down a few notches. In one sense he is no man, for none of us is blameless. None of us are upright at all times. None of us turn away from all evil.

But, the story doesn’t separate Job out from us. He doesn’t represent what is opposite of humanity.

Job represents the best of humanity. He is our paragon. Our exemplar.

We may not all be Job, but the very best of us strive to be, even when we fail.

And, if he represents the best of us, then he is also the source of our hopes. His fortune should be ours if we strive to achieve the kind of perfection that he was able to conjure up for himself. If we’re able to attain his righteousness and blamelessness—if God brags on us the way that God brags on Job—then we can hope for the same blessedness of life that he enjoys.

And then the bottom falls out. Job’s life crumbles into dust.

And as Job’s life is dashed to bits, so are our own hopes and dreams of becoming like him.

That image of Job sitting in the ashes of his former life, and scratching at his searing boils with a piece of broken pottery, haunts me. Because, while morally I am not Job, I have sat in that very spot and scratched those painful itches.

Sitting there in those ashes, Job is us. He is “Everyman.”

He’s just the everyman we run away from.

In the opening narrative sequence of the Book of Job there’s a lot going on—a lot of things that are rich with meaning. There’s the heavenly court scene, with the eager ha’satan. There’s the realization that this is more about God than it is about Job. There’s the unwillingness of Job to “curse” God even in the face of tragedy—and the fascinating note that in the Hebrew it says “bless God and die,” because the words “curse” and “God” could never in a million years go together.

But, when I read the prologue to Job I really just marvel at it’s presence in the canon. There are so many charlatans and preachers of “christianity” out there who want to sell us a bill of goods. If you pray enough, believe enough, have enough faith—if you do all the right things, and give the right amount of money—then you will have all the riches and comfort and health you could ever want. If you pray the right little prayer then God will increase your property and your fortune.

Job isn’t just dashed to bits, but he dashes those false breeds of our faith to bits.

And, that’s uncomfortable. In fact is so scary that you might just want to wrap your children in bubble wrap and hide under the bed. If you can’t earn God’s favor and safety and health through works of great devotion to God—then my goodness we’re all on our own! The sky is falling! We’re-gonna-die!!!

Well, yes we are.

But, if you can peek out from under the covers long enough to get through to the end of the Book of Job, you’ll see a God that is so huge and wondrous and beaming with creative energy…and a God who never abandons Job.

A God who is with Job through the times of plenty AND through the day in the ashes. A God who hears his cries of merciful prayers and his cries of rage into the night.

Just like Everyman.

In the end, we’ll find that we are Job. And blessed beyond reason. Just not in the ways we’re used to thinking of it.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella