Job is a book surrounded by many unknowns. Not a lot contextual information is given for Job’s story, and many people disagree who he was, when he lived, how he is related to the rest of the Old Testament narrative and who actually wrote the book. The writer of the book of Job was clear about a couple things, though. One, Job was wealthy and influential, and two, he was blameless.
Job is an important character to look at in respect to money because his financial path was not linear. Many characters start out poor and become rich, start out rich and become poor, or stay at about the same financial state they were born into. Job’s story, on the other hand, begins with him rich (it is not known where his wealth came from), then he becomes poor, then he becomes rich again. Job experienced both the loss of his wealth and the restoration of that wealth. This is important because – despite being confused and angry with God, even questioning God’s justness – Job retained his belief that something outside his understanding was at work.
Why Job lost his wealth was never fully explained to him. The cause of Job’s losses was not his unwise decisions or poor financial conduct. The writer portrays God and Satan coming to an agreement to test Job. Satan believed Job worshipped God only because God blessed him. As a result, by circumstances out of Job’s control, his wealth was ripped away from him almost instantly. The Sabeans stole his oxen and killed the servants, his sheep and servants were killed by a fire, the Chaldeans stole his camels and killed the servants, and a wind knocked down the house where his ten children were and killed them.
Job was devastated by all of this, yet refused to give up on God because of his misfortune. Instead he blessed God, saying, “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” (Job 1:21 NASB). Even after Job lost his health and any status he had left, he still clung to God as the source of all.
This story has many applications to modern finances, but probably the most important is the ephemeral nature of wealth. The story shows how someone who is wealthy and successful can lose everything they have worked for in a matter of days by no mistake of their own. People lose wealth because of theft, natural disasters, accidents, sickness, economic crises and many other events that are out of their control. This can happen to anyone, which is a reason you should not shame or ridicule others for whatever financial state they are in.
Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?
This also shows how someone should react to such extraordinary circumstances. Job was depressed, distraught, confused and at times angry, yet he never lost his belief that God was in control. He says, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10 NASB). He turned to his friends – who gave him poor counsel – he questioned God’s intentions and fairness, but he maintained his confidence that a divine force was present in his life.
Job made a choice to persevere no matter his circumstances. This is because Job knew God, although he did not understand God. The most common portrayal of God in modern Christianity is that of a man. We attribute human characteristics and limitations to God. Portraying God as a man is not incorrect in the sense that the Bible supports the view that God is capable of being compassionate, loving and nurturing in similar ways to humans. It is incorrect, though, when we apply physical limitations to God.
We think we understand God, because we think of God as behaving like us. But God’s human aspects are only a finite piece of how the Bible portrays God. The Bible portrays God as an all-encompassing energy; a presence that is everywhere and in everything. It portrays God as everything – something that cannot be understood. Job knew this when he pointed to God as the source of all, including his wealth.
Job’s story gives us an example of how we can navigate crushing financial circumstances. Job was not punished for becoming angry with God or asking how something so awful and meaningless could happen to him. Instead, he was shown a small snapshot of God’s infinite nature, to which Job responded, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 5-6 NASB).
The book ends with Job’s wealth restored twofold. This shows that not only can wealth be taken away in a moment, it can also be restored in a moment. Job became rich again, had children and regained his influence. His external circumstances yet again did not change his belief in a divine force, although his conversation with God did change his understanding of God.
Little is said about Job after his wealth was restored, but it is pointed out that his friends, who throughout the story gave him misguided advice, required intercession for their poor behavior. Job spoke to God on their behalf and spared them from punishment. This selfless action was consistent with his behavior in the beginning of the story, when he prayed on behalf of his children and any sins they may have committed. He was not left bitter and angry for having to endure such hardship, but instead was willing to help others and trust God.
Like Job, we do not fully understand why, when we may do everything right to set ourselves up for financial success, it can all fall apart so easily. But like Job, we must maintain our trust in a divine system. If we believe God is infinite and unfathomable yet intimate and personal, then our trust in God must not crumble no matter our circumstances.