Passage: Job 1:20-22
1:21 Then Job got up and tore his robe. He shaved his head, and then he threw himself down with his face to the ground. 1:21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!” 1:22 In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety.
Soul Search Essay
He did not charge God with moral impropriety. He (Job) did not “….charge God….”
Job suffered a complete loss of his business. Job suffered the death of every child he had fathered (plus friends and servants). Yet, he did not charge God with moral impropriety. What is the point of saying this? What is the point of recording this so that thousands of years later you might read it here?
A huge reversal of fortune such as Job’s massive losses brings out in humans a profound craving for an object of blame. The pressure in our emotions, our minds and our social fabric ferociously pushes us toward blaming. We become fixated on it for a time (for some it is for all time). Most of the rest of the book of Job is a treatise on how the compulsion to blame plays out in our emotions, in our minds and most especially in our social fabric. What does this passage and this Bible book have to do with the dangers of business success? It is (in a sense) a matter of economics.
Businesses run on two currencies. One is money (as cash and credit). The other is blame. The money economy is positive in that having or possessing money confers power. In a sense, the blame economy is negative; meaning that not holding or not possessing blame is good. Thus it is negative, because the desired state is the absence of owned blame. (Ownership of blame is externally imposed by a social grouping on the nominal owner or owners.)
The desired state of money is its positive presence (as cash) or at least ready access (as credit) and this clearly ties to business success. Businesses succeed, because they make money. Successful businesses, regardless of what they make, do, sell, or offer must make sufficient money to continue operating. Any business can (and often does) lose money of course. The question is not about the possibility of losing money. The question is about how long money can be lost. How long can you lose money at the current rate and survive? What about blame?
The desired state of blame is to avoid having it. Avoid ownership at all costs. How does this tie to success? Within a human organization (family, business, group, club, etc.), blame is like the fire, the wind and the raiders were to Job (see the events in the verses prior to our passage). Blame is a source of destruction. In fact, it is a powerful destroyer. Successful business people usually work very hard to avoid holding or possessing blame. Again, any business person can (and often does) possess blame at some point in a career. The question, however, is not about the possession of blame. The question is similar to the one for money. How much blame can you absorb? What direction is the flow of blame going? Toward you? For how long and how much in total? The question in reality is about directing and controlling the flow of blame.
Many people who want to succeed can ask themselves in a blame crisis, “How can I orchestrate my thinking and behavior so that blame easily passes from me to another of my choosing?” OK. OK. Yes, I know most people do not think in terms as Machiavellian as this. The thought is more along the lines of “Crap! I could lose my job! This isn’t my fault!” even though objectively it is the person’s fault. These two sets of thoughts are the same.
You see people avoid awareness of how Machiavellian they can become. They prefer to not admit that they think in terms of “How can I make blame pass quickly from me to somewhere else?” (Of course, even the “somewhere else” is simply self delusion. Blame passes to and from agents capable of choice. To say “somewhere else” is to deny the truth of how we choose to pass blame. It is a double falseness. Many of our spiritual issues involve this type “doubleness.”)
So, to help understand this consider that in money and in blame, we have transactions. Things in actual existence actually change hands. This is the foundation of an economy – transactions – things passing from one person to another for the benefit of at least one party in the transaction.
“In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety.”
Humm, so Job did not engage in an economic act. He did not engage in a blame transaction by passing the blame currency (a blame token) to God. That was a dumb business move. He failed to benefit from choosing a blame transfer transaction. This left him wide open to becoming the recipient of blame transactions.
Skim through some sections of the rest of Job. Say 4:1 through 8. What is happening so early in this book? Eliphaz is attempting economic management. He is attempting to direct the blame into Job’s possession. There are many verbal blame tokens scattered in the verses. Why? For the same reason business people attempt to direct portions of the blame economies in their organizations.
Answers are power.
Having an apparently accurate answer (the blame token) gives the bearer power (even if it is a lie). If you answer the implicit, yet ferocious question of “Who is to blame” and the person you deem the recipient can’t avoid blame delivery, then a transaction has occurred. You are the benefiting party. Your answer imposed on another is an attempted act of economic power. If the market (the peer group, bosses, etc.) accepts that this other is to blame, then this is one of the most powerful transactions that occurs in business. No money changed hands, yet power flowed. The power was implicit in the creation of the need to blame, not in money. The power was created by the anxiety of the group.
The power was implicit and present due to the ferocious human need for answers, especially for answers about blame. Blames’ latent power is ever present. Anxiety is never far at work when things go wrong.
The book of Job contains a huge series of blame transaction attempts. Why? Some of these attempts by Job’s friends are made seemingly on God’s behalf (and without his permission). Why? There are two reasons that I see.
”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” Reason one, we reject the reality that life is not about us. This statement by Job is an acceptance and affirmation that Job is not owed anything by God and since everything is owned by God as its creator (including Job), there is no basis for blame due to the losses Job has suffered. Therefore, there is no blame market.
Job possessed these elements of his life that he lost, but he did not own them. With no explicit, factual ownership, the implicit need to blame is weakened. Job could blame due to the losses and the attendant grief. Job, however, somehow understood that there is no right to bring a blame market into his life and therefore, he cannot bring a charge of blame against God. With no market, there is no blame transaction between Job and God (or anyone else). The book of Job could end here. It does not. The compulsion to have an answer (and hence power) forces Job’s friends to create a long lasting market. Indeed, it seems at times to be a bull market that cannot die. Count the verses in the book spent in the market of blame. The percentage is significant. It is most of the book. The friends attempt blame transactions over and over and over.
Reason two, has to do with the inherent power of the blame market. To direct blame through answers (real or made up) is to have significant power. To use answers not just to direct a single blame transaction, but to actually control a section of the blame economy is to have formidable power. Being a blame market maker and/or a market controller is heady power. With that power, business rivals can be weakened or eliminated. With that power, your status is free from the effects of your poor choices, opponents efforts or simple bad luck.
That type of power is intertwined in modern American business success. Whether acknowledged or not, the power to supply blame answers courses through business like a flash flood in a wadi. Wadis are dry riverbebs created by infrequent, but very strong water flows. Wadis are easily forgotten, until a flash flood comes. With that flood of blame, kingdoms and business fiefdoms are bartered, internecine rivals are slighted or even slain. Their careers and characters are sold in the gushing currency of blame. Their characters and reputations are placed in the market pits clamor and they are sold.
The power of blame management that is inherent in American business’ blame economies is why Job’s statement in 1:21-22 matters. The point of Job’s statement being recorded is that it speaks to the heart of what we too often do in business. It speaks to the darkness in that heart by highlighting the absence of this sin in Job’s choices. The fact Job did not charge God (or anyone else) is phenomenal. The depth of soul required to accomplish this with the level of provocation Job experienced is mind boggling.
Please never pass this verse again except with deep appreciation of the character Job possessed.
“1:22 In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety.”
How in the world did he do this??
Next we will turn from the question about Job to consider the source of the darkness in the business heart.