In this section Job receives yet another attempt at comfort, this time a second one from Eliphaz. However, as with so many of the other attempts at comfort, it appears more like a reprimand! Being told that “your sin prompts your mouth and you adopt the tongue of the crafty” (15:5) doesn’t look very comforting to me. Eliphaz then goes on and attempted to elevate himself (15:17-35) by offering words of wisdom in a manner which, certainly in our English tongue, appears rather condescending!
Job’s response comes as no surprise then. “I have heard many things like these, miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2). He points out how easy it is to make such accusing and self-righteous speeches when you are on the outside looking in, but says that if the tables were turned he would use the opportunity to offer encouragement: “Comfort from my lips would bring you relief” (16:5).
Yet in writing these words, I am standing on the outside looking in, and condemning Eliphaz! It just shows how easy it is to fall into this trap. In our day to day lives, think how often we condemn or blame others. This could be friends, acquaintances, family members, or work colleagues. It could also be people we don’t know, or groups of people. Many of our newspapers thrive on this sort of behaviour, and will build people up just to knock them down again, or consistently blame a group of people or section of society for problems in our nation. Refugees, single parents, asylum seekers, the unemployed; we sometimes seem to have a national culture of accusing the unfortunate. Even if someone is in a bad situation as a direct result of their own actions or choices, we are still called to love them, to show grace, mercy and compassion.
So where can we look for guidance? The Bible is full of great examples. Some immediate ones which spring to mind are:
Deuteronomy is full of examples of showing compassion for “the fatherless, the alien and the widow”. Deuteronomy 24:17
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Ephesians 4:29
And because we know that what we say is usually an overflow of what is in our hearts, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Think – are there any individuals or groups which you don’t understand, or are quick to condemn? Pray – that God will help you understand their situation and that you can demonstrate the wisdom, love and compassion of Jesus.