April 9, 2014| 0

A Worthy Boast (Job 31:6)

And the Lord said 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?” [Job 1:8]

“Have you considered my servant Job?” With this opening gambit, God puts Job to the test. Satan is permitted to torment Job, the “blameless and upright” man, to prove his mettle. It’s a challenging tale, raising the age-old problem of evil as Job and his friends argue and struggle to understand how God can permit bad things to happen to good people.

Though Job’s friends try every conceivable explanation for his suffering, they never really put the question to rest. Through it all, however, Job’s gaze remains fixed on God’s responsibility and power to save and redeem. [vv. 19:25, 26]  Job never gives up on his claim to stand on his own integrity.

The theme of integrity runs through the story from beginning to end. God boasts of Job’s singular integrity, calling him “blameless.” The Hebrew root תֹּם (pronounced like “tome”) used in the Old Testament is the same as that for the word “integrity,” and means blameless, complete, sound, whole, or innocent. In other words, it means "to have integrity." Job and God agree on this point, for Job demands to be judged on the basis of his integrity. He even challenges God:

“Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!” [v. 31:6]

How's that for boldness? Who among us would argue with God on the basis of our personal integrity? Dare we confront the Almighty as Job does? And yet, when it’s all said and done, God praises Job and rebukes his friends. [v. 42:7]  Apparently Job was right to stand on integrity and call for God’s recognition.

The turning point in the story, however, is Job’s confession and repentance. [vv. 42:1-6]  He admits that he cannot comprehend the mysteries of God, and immediately thereafter God blesses Job and restores his fortunes. This is not a recipe to gain material blessings, but a lesson teaching that we (like Job) may boast in our integrity only it is well-grounded in faith.

Faith is the soil in which integrity grows and bears fruit. Without faith, integrity has no rudder, no direction, no compass, and no destination. But when integrity stands as an expression of faith guided by the Holy Spirit, it is neither self-serving nor prideful; it is fidelity of character worthy of boasting because it bears witness to the goodness of God. This is the true source and test of integrity that can be weighed in the balance.

For reflection: Try a prayer that boasts of God’s good work in and through you.

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2014

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