Job

Day 15: Eliphaz’s Third Speech and Job’s Reply

Job 22:1-20, Job 23:1-17, Job 24:1-25, Romans 8:1-2, Galatians 6:7-10

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone, and then argued the disputed matter until you were so weary that you lost the will to fight? Maybe a late-night conflict with a spouse, or a misstep with a co-worker. You go round and round, use all your words, state and restate your case, listen and re-listen to the other person’s position. But in the end, you just set the conflict down because it doesn’t seem to have a resolution.

That’s where we find Job and his friends. They have moved into a level of debate that has left Job weary to the bone. They’re getting nowhere in terms of trying to crack the code on his suffering. Did he do something wrong? If so, what? What else could it possibly be? Job says he’s tired of arguing (Job 23:2–3).

Still, Eliphaz argues that Job’s suffering must come as a result of something he’s done wrong, which raises the question: Do our works—both bad and good—matter to God, and if so, how? There’s a part of me that would like it if the moral to the story was that Job did bad things, so God punished him. Then we’d have the tidy morality tale that says God protects “good people” from suffering and really lets “bad people” have it.

But the Bible isn’t a morality tale. It is a love story. So the question about whether our works matter to God is complex. We’re getting it backward if we think God’s blessings flow from our behavior. It’s the other way around. Our behavior is meant to be a response to God’s mercy.

Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, meaning, when our faith is in Him, we cannot be condemned by our bad works, not even by ourselves. And yet Galatians 6:7–10 tells us to care about our conduct because it reflects a Spirit-filled life. Of course our good works matter to God. But they have no power to save us. God cares about our conduct because our conduct reflects the degree to which we understand the depth of His love for us.

The gospel says that because of Christ, believers will never pay for a single sin. God has already accepted full payment in the sacrifice of Christ. To demand two payments would be both unnecessary and unjust.

Our works matter to God because He chooses to work through His people—often in spite of our shortcomings, and often through our seasons of affliction and limitation. Serving the Lord through our good works brings Him joy because it means we are cooperating with His love and mercy; we are living as His ambassadors of grace in a world that needs it.

We do not obey to get love. We obey in response to the mercy we’ve been shown. May we never reverse that equation.

Written by Russ Ramsey