[Originally posted March 27, 2005, and revised February 6, 2006]
When the Accusing Angel (AKA the Old Testament’s “Satan”) arrived at the Conference, apparently a little late, God asked him, “So, where have you been?”
The AA replies, “I’ve been looking all over the earth,” with a slight attitude problem, it seems.
God, curious, goes on to ask, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is as good a man as there is, perfect by human standards.”
Satan says, “Yes, I noticed him. Why shouldn’t he be so good? Look how it pays! It is not for nothing that your pet man Job is so perfect,” the Accuser responds. Take away his assets and I’ll bet he will tell you to go to Hell in a heart beat.”
God says, “It’s a bet! You can take all his family and assets away, and I’ll bet he will still worship me.”
So off goes the Accusing Angel to kill Job’s seven sons and three daughters and wipe out all his wealth. But all Job does is say, “Well, God gave me all this stuff so I guess he has the right to take it all away. Praise God.”
At the next Conference, God observes to AA, “Well, what do you think of my man Job now? You ruined him and killed his children and he is still loyal.” (Of course, because of Poet-Job’s fine dramatic irony, Job does not know about this unusual heavenly wager. If he did, he might have reacted differently.)
Upping the ante, the AA responds, “This is not a fair test. Ruin his health, make him fear for his life, and THEN we will see how “loyal” he is.”
God, not to be outdone, says, “OK, it is a bet; you can do anything to him short of killing him.”
(So God agrees to let the Accuser ruin and scare Job almost to death, just to win a bet. Pete Rose was kicked out of baseball for doing considerably less.)
Long story short: in the end Job stands his ground, manages to get God to come down and, in whirlwind speech – the longest speech directly from God in all of Bibical literature, admit that that all the pain and suffering that Job was having was God’s doing after all. And, Job shamed God into to replace all his family and wealth. (No mention of justice for the 10 dead kids. I guess every good form of Entertainment comes at a price.
Interestingly, God stipulates that Job's three new daughters are to have equal legal rights with their brothers, becoming the first women to enjoy equal rights with men. Who says the Bible is hopelessly patriarchal? )
But God gave as good as He got, however. He tells Job from his whirlwind podium, “This is my Creation, Job, and don’t you forget it! I made all this stuff, and lots more. I will do with it what I want. Spare me your ideas of moral management.”
So in the end the Accuser, Job’s wife, and Job’s pious orthodox friends all lose. The Accuser loses his bet with God and apparently leaves town. Mrs. Job, who counseled Job to "curse God and die," seems to go with the Accuser. And God would have punished Job's three comforting "friends" if Job had not intervened for them.
Great poetry. Tough stuff for the "His eye is on the sparrow" school. A Jesuit friend once said, "Job is a bootcamp for Christians."
So what is the point?
Do not conform mindlessly, even to God. Challenge authority when it is acting wrongly. Orthodoxies are often shells filled with mush. Creation favors the intelligent rebel, but do not expect a reward. There is no connection between sin and suffering, or virtue and reward. Always oppose unaccountable power...that power that does not put itself at risk. Like John F. Kennedy once remarked in a press conference, life is unfair. God is not in the justice business.