On another site someone was studying Job and had some understandable questions about Job and his “So-Called Friends.”
If you’re not familiar with the story of Job, it goes like this. Job is a godly man. Satan (one of the “sons of God”) has an audience with God, and says the only reason Job is faithful is because God has blessed him abundantly, and that if Job’s prosperous life were taken from him, he would turn away from God in a minute. God gives Satan permission to destroy Job’s life, and Satan takes his property and wealth, his children, and eventually his good health. Job is devastated, broken, covered with horrific boils. Then his friends come to sit with him in silence. After a week, Job speaks, complains, and his friends are disturbed by what he says. “Gee, Job, are you sure? You must have done something wrong.”
The first thing I would note is that Job’s companions really were his friends. They sat in total silence for an entire week, to keep him company in his mourning. They really did mourn for him and with him. There was nothing fake about their concern and compassion for their friend Job.
The second thing to notice about Job’s friends is that they truly believed the Bible. Everything they believed was based on scripture. God promised only blessings for the upright, and curses and calamities only for the wicked. Job must have done something wicked.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;
he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. (Deut 7:9-10)
Deuteronomy 28 is divided unevenly in half. The first 14 verses are filled with promises: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” But the last 53 verses is a long list of the curses and terrors that God will bring on the disobedient. In that chapter there are nearly 4x as many verses describing the calamity of the wicked. (Check it out here.)
The book of Proverbs echoes what is found in Deuteronomy.
Trouble pursues the sinner,
but the righteous are rewarded with good things. (Prov 13:21)
Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. (Prov 28:10)
Eliphaz even refers back to the “good things” promised to the faithful:
Yet it was he who filled their houses with good things,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked. (Job 22:18)
So you see, Job’s friends were intelligent Bible-believers. They took the scripture seriously.
When experience (Job’s disasters) conflicted with what the Bible taught, they sided with the Bible. Job had to be wrong.
According to the Bible, God only brought the kinds of disastrous calamities that befell Job on people who were disobedient, hated God, were wicked sinners, and set evil plans for their neighbors. Job’s friends had two choices: believe Job, or believe the scripture.
So, his friends really were friends, it’s just that what was happening to Job contradicted their theology, it contradicted what the Bible taught them, and their theology was more important than the truth of what was happening to their friend. Job’s friends eventually turned on him with a vengeance, accusing him of all sorts of wickedness.
This is one reason why some anti-homosexual Christians get so angry. This is why some people get so upset if you talk about being gay and Christian, and they call the phrase “gay Christian” an oxymoron. Otherwise pleasant people can get really intense when you–just who you are–threatens their theology.