Two weeks ago I wrote about how people seem to be doing all sorts of things and getting away with it. It appears as if those who are doing the right things have to face consequences. It just doesn’t seem fair.
But recently, in my night reading of the book of Job in the Bible, I came across a verse that has encouraged me greatly about doing the “right thing”. The verse is Job 17: 9: “Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.”
Even when it doesn’t seem so, those with clean hands will grow stronger. Job was already down in the pits. He had lost everyone and everything. He was bewildered and baffled by the extremities of his deprivations. He could not understand why God was doing this to him. He knew he was blameless, and so he was beside himself as to why he had to undergo such unwarranted suffering.
In his conversations with God, he starts with despair cursing the day he was born (Job 3:1), then to the realization that God is too great to dispute with (Job 9:14) and by the time he comes to 17:9, he affirms the settled belief that the “righteous will hold to their sway and clean hands will grow stronger”.
Yet, at the time he says it he isn’t in a strong position and there would be many more chapters of agonizing appeals to God before his fortunes change! Yet, at verse 17:9, Job knew his God enough to realise the truth that those who do right and suffer will become stronger.
In the end it became true of Job. Job endured and “the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) He became strong and persevered. I don’t know if suffering always produces the rewards Job received, but whatever the additional benefit, we certainly will become stronger.
For example, a person who doesn’t accept nor give bribes may not bring in as much business as his or her colleagues. As a result he or she may not earn as much as them. He may have to settle for a lower standard of life or change job. It may be a difficult adjustment but by going through it that person becomes stronger in character. In addition, he or she would enjoy the inner satisfaction of knowing that he/she did the right thing.
So, when we suffer for doing the right thing, we should see it as an opportunity to become a stronger person, not one who lives in bitter regret and disappointment over our misfortunes. Clean hands, indeed, make us stronger.
Job didn’t know why he went through such an ordeal. He didn’t know anything about the conversation God had had with Satan. God (it wasn’t Satan’s initiative) asks Satan to torment Job but not take his life (Job 1:6-12).
Some people may say God is rather cruel to do this to an innocent man. Well, that is one way of looking at it. But, I am inclined to think that the test God put Job through was a device to create a person that was his handiwork. God achieved his purposes although Job had no idea of it.
There are forces at work in this world that we, human beings, know very little about. Religion helps us become aware of that realm and the choices and decisions we make in some ways influence the outcome in the other realm. That was the context in which Job suffered though he never knew why, but, through it, God made his point in that realm and ours.