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Posts Tagged ‘security’

A Gambling God

“You have blessed the work of (Job’s) hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!”

Job 1:10b-12

God and Satan are having a discussion. God points to Job as a faithful servant. Satan argues that Job is only faithful because God has blessed him so richly, and if those riches were removed from him, Job would curse God to God’s face. God takes the bet and allows Satan power over Job’s possessions. Thus begins a series of misfortunes to make the most fatalistic pessimist cringe.

First, there is the theft and destruction of all of his livestock, followed by the murder of his servants. Next, his sons and daughters are killed when a great wind strikes their house and causes it to collapse. Job responds, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21) Satan then causes great sores to cover Job’s entire body. In his misery, Job says, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (2:10) Next, three of Job’s friends turn on him, arguing that it is because of his own sin, wickedness, and refusal to admit his wrongdoing that he is being punished. Job complains mightily to God about the unfairness of his situation, but does not break faith or curse God. In a divine showdown, an unrepentant God humbles Job by reminding him of God’s unfathomable power and Job’s vast ignorance. Finally, God restores Job’s riches to a level twice what he had before, giving him ten more children, and allowing him to live to see his great-grandchildren.

The story of Job raises a number of ethical questions about God. Why would God associate with Satan? Are women, children, and servants no more than property that can be murdered and then replaced with other women, children, and servants? Would God intentionally allow Satan – or anyone else – to destroy the life of a faithful person just to make a point? The gambling God presented in Job seems arrogant, careless, and insensitive.

Job’s story, whether we read it as factual or allegorical, raises the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Although not to the magnitude of Job, we all know good people who seem terribly unlucky. Many of us have experienced extended misfortune, too.  We find ourselves asking, “Why?” One of Job’s answers is that if everything comes to us from God, everything can be taken away – whether by God, fate, genetics, or random events. There is no amount of money, health, or other earthly resource sufficient to provide an impenetrable security against the endless variety of calamities that occur every day on earth. Tornadoes, floods, famine, stock market crashes, medical bills – all can wipe out our possessions quickly. While I do not believe God is the cause of our misfortune, the bottom line is that, like Job, any one of us can become destitute very quickly. Job, however, did not just lose his possessions; he also lost his relationships – his family was killed, and his friends turned against him. Of course, we lose people in our lives, too. People who are near and dear to us are here one day, then gone the next. Some die; others decide they no longer value a relationship with us. Life can be sad and unfair.

The grace in the story of Job, as in our lives, is that there is no hole so deep that God will not crawl down with us and help us find our way to sunlight, again. In his devotional, A Spring Within Us, Fr. Richard Rohr writes, “Like water, grace seeks the lowest place and there it pools.” (p. 148) Job felt unfairly abandoned, and in the hardest times of our lives, we do too. Grace, however, finds us in our darkness and eventually leads us back to the light.

Did a gambling God cause Job’s misfortune? Does a gambling God cause our misery? I do not believe so, but I do know our loving God can restore meaning and treasure to any life that has lost both.

Note: this is the twelfth in a series of Life Notes on the Faces of God

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Christian Values: Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9

The importance of peace in Christianity can hardly be overstated. Of the many desirable characteristics the Bible encourages, only three are referenced more frequently, according to research done by Ben MacConnell on Christian values. In both the Old and New Testaments, peace is a repeating theme. Often, Scripture describes the process of attaining peace between tribes or nations. At other times, one individual is encouraged to make peace with another. Perhaps most challenging are the passages calling us to find peace within ourselves, as well as to make peace with God.

We cannot understand peace without considering security, for the two are inseparable. Through the ages, nations have invaded other nations in order to protect or to enhance their security interests. Invading countries want more land, more resources, or more access to strategic locations. Anytime our security is threatened, our sense of peace is also threatened. Likewise, when someone threatens those in our charge, such as our children, we are likely to react in less-than-peaceful, even violent ways. A certain level of security is prerequisite to peace; and where our security is, there our heart will be also.

Some consider peace to be the absence of tension. Tension threatens our security, and thus, our sense of peace. Most of us do not like tension in our lives and strive to eliminate it. Indeed, excess tension is a common cause of physical and emotional maladies. In his book A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer discusses the tension between reality and possibility. He writes, “…we must learn to hold the tension between the reality of the moment and the possibility that something better might emerge.” Parker believes we too often settle on less-than-desirable solutions to conflicts because we desire a quick release of the tension. Rather than taking the time and doing the work required to attain a mutually beneficial resolution over the long term, we seek the quickest and easiest way to peace, even if that peace is short-lived. Unresolved sources of tension tend to recur.

At its core, finding peace is an individual pursuit, and what we depend upon for our security is where we will find our peace. If we seek security in money and material possessions, we will always feel insecure because those types of treasures are easily lost to us. According to Matthew, it is the peacemakers who will be called the children of God. Based upon the life and teachings of Jesus, a peacemaker does not simply strive for the absence of tension. A true peacemaker finds his or her security in God, and then works towards solutions to problems that honor the dignity, interests, and worth of all involved. Security in God comes from the belief that God loves and values us as we are; and that reassurance is sufficient in and of itself for a strong sense of inner security. Peacemakers recognize that true peace is not a short-term endeavor. They understand their individual efforts may actually increase tension for a time, and ultimately may only contribute a small portion to the overall goal of bringing peace to the world. Even so, working for peace is what children of God do, and external peace necessarily begins with internal security.

Come home to church this Sunday. Find your peace in the Prince of Peace.

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