A Heart of Darkness Charges God

Passage: Job 1:6-12
1:6 Now the day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord—and Satan also arrived among them. 1:7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” And Satan answered the Lord, “From roving about on the earth, and from walking back and forth across it.” 1:8 So the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”

1:9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? 1:10 Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land. 1:11 But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!”

1:12 So the Lord said to Satan, “All right then, everything he has is in your power. Only do not extend your hand against the man himself!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Soul Search Essay
So, does God saying, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil” constitute setting Job up for a fall? (Which would be a moral charge against God that many would make in the heat of deep loss and perhaps after.)  No.  It is not a set up and ironically, it is Satan that testifies to this.

“Is it for nothing that Job fears God? 1:10 Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land.”  Satan makes the charge that Job’s loyalty and love of God is nothing more significant than good business. Satan charges that Job enjoys a sweet deal (perhaps a special deal) in accepting the “good life” and therefore the loss of the good life will end the loyalty and the love (which would be a sham love if it ended for this reason).

So, was what Job had before Satan took action a sweet and special deal?  For that to be true, there would have to be favoritism or a quid pro quo business transaction.  God would have to show preferential treatment toward Job or God would need to owe Job for something Job did.  There are numerous scripture passages that make it clear that God does not play favorites, which eliminates favoritism.

There are passages, however, in the Old Testament that promise blessings for Israel following God’s law and catastrophe for Israel disregarding it.  In these promises through Moses, what is stated are not payments for compliance, but consequences.  The consequences followed the decisions and actions of the nation Israel.  The promises were to a nation not specific individuals.   Did YHWH honor individual decisions?  Yes.  Could individuals enjoy the positive consequences?  Absolutely.  Did this confer a special right to the good life?  Absolutely not.  Grace is not quid pro quo.

So, why would Satan make this charge of a special &/or a sweet deal to a God who does not do this?   Satan knows this is not true. So why use it?  Simple.  It works!  It will not work with YHWH.  It will work with humans.

Millions turn from Yahweh due to his perceived “failures” to prevent painful loss or “failures” to deliver the good, comfortable life we think we have earned.  We cry out, “Why didn’t God stop…!!!”  Also, we cry out, “God should…!”  Millions of non-believers and believers alike turn away from God because whether aware or not, they presume they are owed a good life or at least a reasonably good life. This particular tactic of Satan’s quite simply works and works very well against humans.

Why didn’t it work on Job?

Why? Job understands the nugget of truth in Satan’s charge without even hearing the charge being made (WOW!). What is that truth?

“Have you not made a hedge….” “You have blessed….”  Satan charges Yahweh with extending grace in the form of protection and material, tangible blessings as a means of gaining loyalty.  He goes on to charge that withdrawing the grace would force Job to curse God.  The loyalty would end.  There is the “sweet deal” logic exposed. Satan supposes that Job must, must feel entitled after all of these years (probably decades) of receiving blessing and after blessing.  Business has been phenomenal!!  Family growth has been great!

It did not work, because Job knew that what he had for decades was grace given by God, not human earned obligations nor a sweet deal with God.  Grace does not give entitlement.  Ever.  Job knew this.

God knew what Job believed, what Job knew.  Also, both Job and Yahweh knew the only one entitled to remove the protection and blessing was the giver, the creator of the person and the blessings.  Satan presumed Yahweh bought loyalty, rather than extending grace as the creator.  Yahweh removing the grace was not God’s moral failure.  It was an action he was entitled to take (even in our lives).  God is an agent of choice.  God chooses.

The fact that we fear this kind of power and entitlement in God’s choices does not make it immoral for him to choose anything.  We are only owed what God promises to us (which is a phenomenal amount).  What we presume we are owed does not line up without deep understanding of who God is and what he promised to Christians (vs. Israel). The only immoral choice Yahweh can make is to violate his own character and morality.  He does not do that.

Yahweh’s capacity to choose means that everything in our lives depends on the character of Yahweh.  Everything.  Job understood that everything depended on God and his character despite Job being successful. Job was that rare, rare person that truly was honorable and God-centered despite success!  So, yes, a human can be phenomenally successful and avoid all the traps of success. It is possible to be godly and successful, but that requires tremendous awareness, ferocious intent and deep, deep participation with God.

If you think success has not changed you or that you are also one of these rare people, then have you considered yourself against Job?

Deadly Career Choices

Passage: James 5:1-6
5:1 Come now, you rich! Weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming on you. 5:2 Your riches have rotted and your clothing has become moth-eaten. 5:3 Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure! 5:4 Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5:5 You have lived indulgently and luxuriously on the earth. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 5:6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person, although he does not resist you.

Soul Search Essay
Why would the reality of who Jesus Christ is provoke James to such a strong statement as this passage? Why would the life of Jesus that James observed provoke such confrontational words? Why would the death and resurrection of Jesus demand from James these assertions?

Think seriously about these questions.

If you cannot offer a meaningful answer to each question, your grasp of Jesus’ life needs to grow. It needs to grow significantly. Jesus came to radically alter what? Everything. Society. Work. Culture. Career. Perception. Morality. Community. Health. Wealth. He came to radically alter inner human worlds (that place in our mind where we live out our inner thoughts) and even to alter the external physical world. If you cannot answer each question above, then has he radically altered you? You have been saved, but have you thought deeply enough about Christ, his teachings and God’s plans to grow meaningfully? Where does he fit in your business life? Has Christ radically altered you business behavior? Consider the following.

Who is James confronting? Those who are successful in the first century. Those who have succeeded in life, those who have “won.” In their winning, they accumulated wealth. Are you successful? If so, James is forcefully stating that you are in grave danger. In fact, he is holding people just like you up as a powerful, potent warning to others. Why would he do that? Your success, whether in work, money (the scenario James used here), the church, or society is the deadliest type of trap that exists. James also strongly points out that these traps are the milk of evil.

How can this be true? Success is proof of God’s love! No. Success apart from your intimate participation in God’s plans is not proof of his love. Without his intimate participation, your success is proof of something else. It proves serious time and attention have been given to advancement within this corrupt world, given to climbing Satan’s ladder (Satan rules the current human world), given to acquiring more of Satan’s tools. You have given serious time and attention that did not go to God’s plans, to his grace or to his love. (FOOTNOTE: Success as part of God’s intimate interaction with you is not part of Satan’s ladder and you are not acquiring Satan’s property and tools. Before you quickly claim this fits you, recognize that deep introspection is required. Have you done intimately participated with God? Really?) What does this indicate? Idolatry.

Idolatry is the reliance on anything other than God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for your safety, sustenance, security and life path. The intimate participation of God means that he participates in your path decisions due to your daily invitation to involve him in them. Success apart from his involvement, however, very easily breeds, incubates, and sustains evil while trapping you in this evil. It does this not because of arrogance, but insulation. Success shields you from dependence on God. You issue no invitations. This insulation and shielding is the natural terrain of idolatry. So, success makes it easy to avoid painful truth (truth about who you actually are) and in avoiding that truth, you pursue evil.

I am reasonably sure most people do not consider themselves evil nor do they think they are pursuing evil. To recognize the evil within us requires spiritual maturity. It requires brutal, deep honesty. People pursuing advancement in this corrupt world on their own terms tend to lack these qualities.

To avoid idolatry and evil while experiencing success is exceptionally difficult and exceptionally rare. It can be done, but it requires a deep level of intimacy with God and a profound vulnerability to him. Most successful people avoid even casual vulnerability. Profound vulnerability is way, way off the radar. Successful people seek to overcome vulnerability, not embrace it. To be told not only to embrace, but actively explore it? They do not just avoid vulnerability. They run from it.

Often safety and security needs are core drivers in the pursuit of success. Yes, pleasure plays a role, but there are usually powerful negative drivers as well. Success often comes from driveness to succeed. This driveness is usually primarily avoidance of something. There is some pain, longing or need that colors many pieces of the successful life at a deep level. That ache has to be soothed and success seems to provide the answer. Unfortunately, it is a trap and not a solution. Equally unfortunate is that the avoidance of vulnerability requires the avoidance of personal awareness. So, avoiding evil while pursuing success in the worldly, anti-Christ system known as a career or society in modern America is impossible without God’s direction and intimate participation. Without God’s direction, evil will advance.

Again, without the direction and intimate participation of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and Yahweh in any career, business, investment, social climb, etc., you will foster and advance evil within your soul, evil in your family, evil in your community and evil within your business. You will be seduced by success through your pursuit of it, whether you reach what you define as success or not. Powerfully unpleasant words.

Why would I say this? Read the sentence again, “You will be seduced by success through your pursuit of it, whether you reach what you define as success or not.” What is the critical phrase? It is “…what you defined as success….” Where is the intimacy of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit or of Yahweh in that phrase? Where is intimate participation in Yahweh’s plan?

Too often, it is absent.

Jesus Christ demands that you become a career Christian. It is not a suggestion. It is a demand. (If you believe I am incorrect, read the Gospels. Refute me from them.) Your career is in Christ and Christ alone. Christ requires us to be career Christians. Without the “my career is Christ” mindset, you will assume James’ statements do not apply to you. You will fail to recognize how much faith you put in money, status, control, power, and other worldly solutions. You will remain numb to your idolatry; unaware, yet actively idolatrous. This is why you cannot deeply answer my questions in this devotion.

Intimacy with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit continually alters who you are. This is a definitive statement. It is absolutely not saying, “Intimacy with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can occasionally alter who you are.” It does alter you. It alters you continually. Spiritual growth is consistent, ongoing God directed change. You can only avoid the altering by avoiding the intimacy. In avoiding intimacy, you are the plaything of evil. In fact, you are a participant in evil by actively advancing it. This a very ugly truth. The truth is that evil is very ugly. I pray you will read the following devotions and consider how to escape.