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Job 35, Elihu Condemns Self-Righteousness

Elihu has had enough of Job’s empty complaining. He is quick to point out that all of Job’s whining, his bitterness, lack of faith, and sin are not offenses against God, but against other human beings. At the same time, Job’s righteousness is a blessing, not for God, but for other people.

For much of my life I believed that God was hanging on every word, every behavior, every choice – waiting for me to do well, and waiting for me to mess up. I lived in constant fear that I would disappoint God. And truly, being so intent upon God and what God would think and what God would do took my focus away from how my words, actions, and choices affected other people. Sure, I treated people well, but it was for God’s sake and for fear of making God mad.

Later in life I realized that the whole point of living in this life is not to earn points so that I can die on God’s good side one day. No, life is about living it to its fullest here and now, for myself and for other people. It may seem like a subtle difference, but it is in fact vastly different. When I started speaking, behaving, and choosing so that me and others around me would benefit, and when I stopped worrying about what God might think, my focus shifted. God changed for me. No longer was I worrying that God was lying in wait, ready to pounce on every bad deed. Now I am focused on other people, on loving God, on living life in the moment, in making this world a better place for those living in it and those who will live in it in the future. Of course, God is still the center of my universe. But it is this universe – this world – this community – not the one I may or may not exist in in the afterlife. And that has been a beautiful gift!

Job 35

Elihu continued and said: “Do you think this to be just? You say, ‘I am in the right before God.’ If you ask, ‘What advantage have I? How am I better off than if I had sinned?’ I will answer you and your friends with you. Look at the heavens and see; observe the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him; or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects others like you, and your righteousness, other human beings.

“Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives strength in the night, who teaches us more than the animals of the earth, and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?’ There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evildoers. Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it.

How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him! And now, because his anger does not punish, and he does not greatly heed transgression, Job opens his mouth in empty talk, he multiplies words without knowledge.”