A reader recently raised some interesting points regarding the destruction that occurred with Job and his family.
One of the points was that there was significant “collateral” damage inflicted upon those who surrounded Job and his family, namely Job’s servants, employees and their families. Many of them also suffered destruction in the attacks upon Job.
The reader went on to say that God set the terms of a bet, made a deal with Satan, “The Father of Lies”, and that Satan did not stick to the bargain. In addition, none of the families that surrounded Job received any relief for their losses as Job ultimately did. The main premise of the comment was based on an assumption that was posed as a question:
“How is it that God, allowing Satan to afflict Job, is not God doing the damage?”
This is a question that is quite reasonable to pose and is a very common assumption about the activities described in the book of Job. I will take the liberty of paraphrasing this question as a statement for the sake of clarity:
“Since God is in control and He allowed Satan to cause the destruction found in the book of Job, God bears the responsibility for the destruction as if He did it Himself.”
This premise is based on a single word and the understanding of the meaning of that word. The word in question is “allow”. This word is frequently used whenever something bad happens and someone is looking to place blame such as, “How could God allow such evil, destruction, pain, suffering, etc.?” However, this word does not appear anywhere in the book of Job. It is an inferred conclusion based on the narrative and the perspective of the reader.
This basic perspective is that God is in control, and therefore, whatever happens is ultimately on Him. God allows it all to happen. I see this as a faulty premise that comes from engrained, traditional thinking and “religious” understanding. I do not see God as “allowing” the actions of Satan.
It is important for us to understand the meaning of the word, allow. When God is said to allow something, the statement implies that God is an accomplice to the action. Yet, the verb, to allow, carries with it a number of nuances as evidenced in this dictionary definition.
“To give permission to or for; permit; to let have; give as one’s share; grant as one’s right; to permit by neglect, oversight, or the like; to admit; acknowledge; concede: to allow a claim; to take into consideration, as by adding or subtracting; set apart; Older Use. to say; think; Archaic. to approve; sanction; to permit something to happen or to exist.”
To let do or happen; permit
To permit the presence of
To permit to have
Other sources, such as the Collins Thesaurus of the English Language and WordNet offer another definition. This definition is the one that is generally applied to God in the sense of “Why did God allow this to happen?”
Make it possible for something to happen through a specific action or lack of action.
This definition of allow gives the connotation of being in agreement with or an accomplice to a specific action. Let’s look at what it means to be an accomplice from the Webster’s New College Dictionary and Wikipedia.
“A person who knowingly participates with another in an unlawful act; partner in crime. At law, an accomplice is a person who actively participates in the commission of a crime, even though they may actually take no part in the actual criminal offense. At law, an accomplice has the same degree of guilt as the person he or she is assisting, is subject to prosecution for the same crime and faces the same criminal penalties.
So the important question is this, “Does God allow things to happen in the sense that He is an active accomplice or is God passively involved in allowing something to happen?
Chapter 9 - God, The Accomplice? and Chapter 11 - What Up With Job? in my book IDEOLATRY, God Is Not Your Problem, go into a lot more discussion on this issue. God established certain truths and laws that govern the universe in which we live. However, although God is capable of doing whatever He wants, He chose to limit Himself based upon those laws and truths. One of those is our own personal Free Will, which God will not override, even though He can. God neither allows nor disallows, we do.
We are responsible for the choices we make and actions that we take based on our free will. We both suffer for, and enjoy the consequences of, those choices. God wants us to make the right choices, but He will not force us. Through His Word, God offers guidance to us as we exercise those free will choices, and God’s gifts to us are just that, gifts.
Our self-righteousness can get in the way of those gifts and make us think that we somehow deserve the good stuff because we are so good. But, there is nothing that we deserve except death for our sins. It is when we get to the point that we think we understand everything, have all the answers and can accomplish it all on our own, that we really run into problems.
This is the basis of what is happening in the book of Job. God did not allow Satan to do anything to Job and God was not the responsible party or the accomplice. Through his self-righteousness, Job put himself under the authority of Satan and because of the gift of free will, God could not intervene. There is no discussion about the collateral damage that must have occurred in the book of Job so we don’t know the actions or understanding of any of those people. However, Job was restored after he understood and repented of his self-righteousness.
To learn more about the Character and Nature of the God of the Bible: