The Book of Job takes on the message of the prosperity gospel head-on. Job’s counselors show us the effects of unbiblical theology. Doctrine is not simply an intellectual matter, but it penetrates the heart. A Biblical view of God leads to comfort, hope, and assurance. A view of God that deviates from the Bible robs people of the knowledge of the love of Christ, that God is for us and not against us, that he who did not spare his own son, how shall he not freely give us all things?
Here are some of the effects of the theology of Job’s counselors.
1. It brings God down to a human level. One of the first things that I learned about God as a child is “God is great, and God is good.” If God is not great, then he is at the mercy of human action. If God is not good, then we cannot trust him, and we are at the mercy of our own devices against one much more powerful than we are. Job’s friends alternatively speak of God as one whom we can please through mere human effort, and a God who is remote and uncaring. If God is not great, evil may be greater than he is. If God is not good, he doesn’t care about human suffering.
2. It promotes human performance. God cannot be a debtor to any human being. Yet, by bringing God down to a human level, we can gain the impression that we either can please God by our own efforts, or that we can come to the bargaining table as equals with God. Both the Creator/creature distinction and the holiness of God tell us otherwise. God is pure being. We are subsistent beings whose life is in God. God is perfectly holy in all his person and in all his works. In contrast to the holiness of God, we, as human beings, are radically damaged by the Fall. We are “conceived in born in sin,” and we continue to reject God’s will for our will.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, properly presented, presents the sinfulness of sin in its fullness, which magnifies the grace and love of God exponentially greater than that which we can conceive, apart from the Spirit of God. This puts God in his rightful place, us in our rightful place, glorifies God, humbles us, and shows us our utter dependency on the mercy of God in Christ.
3. It deprives Christians of the comfort of Christ in the midst of suffering. If the only function of suffering is to correlate with “what a man sows, he shall also reap,” where is the comfort of Christ in this. Yet, through suffering, Christ conforms us to his image, which is the greatest good imaginable (Romans 8:28-29). While we may never know God’s specific purposes in our suffering, this is far different than saying that there is no purpose. The comfort that we are able to have is that Jesus promises that he will never leave us nor forsake us. If suffering is merely “what we deserve,” the presence of Christ does not accompany us in our suffering, and our suffering is in vain.
4. It destroys people. Bad theology destroys people’s souls by giving them a false vision of God. Humanly speaking, apart from the grace of God, how could one help but walk away from God when all one has heard is falsehood. This is like being in a marriage and finding out that one’s spouse has been pathologically dishonest for the entire marriage. It destroys marriages, families, and churches. It robs Christians of the hope and assurance that is rightfully theirs through the finished work of Christ.
Job corrects our vision, and points us, as Francis Schaeffer writes, to “the God who is there.” This is the God who cannot fail his people. He demonstrates this through sending his son to take on the sins of his people at the cross, and granting his people the righteousness of Christ.