“I Assumed This About You, So It Must Be True!”: A Lesson From Eliphaz

I’m reading through the Bible in chronological order this year.  Right now I’m reading through Job (since a case could be made that Job lived during the time of the Genesis patriarchs.)  Today’s reading contains the final indictment of Job by his supposed friend Eliphaz in chapter 22.  One thing I noticed is that Eliphaz accuses Job of the following:

“Is not your evil abundant?  There is no end to your iniquities.  For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing and stripped the naked of their clothing.  You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry…You have sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless were crushed.”  (Job 22:5-7, 9)

Yet God opens the book of Job with this description of him:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”  (Job 1:1)

Does God’s description of Job sound like Job was in the business of cheating his fellow man, taking food and water away from them, and harming widows and orphans?  Obviously not.

Why would Eliphaz accuse Job of these wrongdoings, especially since the Bible called him Job’s friend (Job 2:11)?  Wouldn’t Eliphaz have known the type of upright man Job was?  Was Eliphaz so sure that Job was being punished for transgressing the commandments of God that it caused him to make up these accusations and believe his own lies?

Let’s say Eliphaz was purposefully lying about Job rather than simply believing and repeating someone else’s lies.  Why would he do that?  Well, we know Eliphaz and his companions were erroneously convinced that God was punishing Job for unrepentant sin.  Perhaps Eliphaz, already convinced that Job had done wrong, wondered in his mind what Job could have done to cause God to punish him so…and then unconsciously took his theories and assumed them to be facts.

“Man, I always thought Job to be a good guy, but obviously he’s not.  I wonder what he’s done to get God so angry at him.  Well, I know he was rich, the richest guy around here.  And we all know that no one gets that rich without conning other people and walking all over them.  I bet that’s what Job did.  Yep, that HAS to be what he did.  It’s as clear as day now.  He puts on a good show about being holy and all, but I bet you anything that behind the scenes he’s one of the most ruthless sharks around here.  He must have this entire town under his thumb for him to have been as rich as he was!  Why, I bet Job’s the reason that guy on the other side of town recently declared bankruptcy!  Job probably lent him some money and wasn’t fair about the repayment plans!  And what about that widow and her fatherless children who recently had to give up their home because they couldn’t afford the rent ever since her husband died?  If Job was as righteous as he says he is, he would have stepped up and helped them!  I bet he’s the reason they’re out on the street to begin with!  He probably owns the entire building and kicked them out on the street after they missed paying one month’s rent!  Yep, that’s what happened, I’m sure of it!  No WONDER God’s punishing him like he is!  I’m going to give Job a piece of my mind, the dirty crook!”

Sound familiar, friends?  Do we ever sit around wondering the worst about others and then believe our own assumptions?  Do we end up looking at them in a negative light simply because we’ve assumed the worst about them?  I know I have.  I also know that I’ve been proven wrong the overwhelming majority of the times I’ve believed my own imaginations about other people, just as Eliphaz and his companions were proven to be wrong about Job.

What does Jesus say about this?

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  (John 7:24)

We don’t know for sure why Eliphaz accused Job of such wrongdoing when the Bible makes it clear that Job would never do such a thing.  Perhaps Job had an enemy who spread slanderous lies about him, gossip which Eliphaz heard and assumed to be true.  The Bible also condemns that nasty habit some of us tend to have (Prov. 6:17-19; 11:9; 16:27-28; 26:20-22).

Yet, if Eliphaz did in fact conjure up these imagined wrongdoings of Job and then assume his own theories to be facts, we now see how easily Satan can work in our minds to sow the seeds of division instead of encouragement.  Job needed his friends.  He had lost everything he owned, all of his children were dead, his marriage was a wreck, and his health was gone.  Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain wracked him day and night.  He needed comfort, not condemnation over imagined faults.  He needed encouragement, not denouncement for sins he had never committed.  He needed true friendship, not puffed-up, self-righteous lectures from pseudo-friends.

Christians, we are surrounded every day by people who are hurting, both saints and sinners.  God wants us to comfort them (2 Cor. 1:3-5), not assume and accuse the worst about them.  Let’s take a lesson from Eliphaz and his companions, and try to be better friends than them.  That by itself will go a long way towards influencing them to reconcile with God and repent of any sin that is in their lives, regardless of whether it is the reason for their misfortunes.

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