In many sermons it’s pointed out how Job’s friends are a model for friendship up until they open their mouths. God later in the narrative rebukes them harshly for their judgmental spirit and inability to simply sit with Job and acknowledge his plight. Many Christians know the story of Job well, or at least the beginning and the end. But it seems that the implications have not sunk in. When Christians talk of homeless, for example, they often make statements which assume that all homeless individuals are homeless by choice, and are lazy. Even if that were true (and I have doubts about this), does that really matter? Does that in any way negate our call to mourn with those who mourn? Or our call to identify with the powerless?
If the book of Job says anything, it is that we’re called to come alongside those who have been dealt a bad hand in life. We’re not called to preach at the suffering but rather are called to offer them something far more valuable: the gift of our presence. While the gift of presence seems to become more and more of a commodity in our fast-paced, removed, and virtual age, presence trumps preaching in Job.
But what about God? Doesn’t he basically preach at Job?
Yes he does. But he alone has that right. You and I are not God. And let’s remember how God was very angry with Job’s friends for thinking they could take the place of God. Humans are called to come alongside other humans who are suffering, much like Simon who was singled out to carry the cross of Christ.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 NIV
Edit: I’ve received some pushback on this short article, some insisting that the book of Job wasn’t written with the homeless in mind. That may be true, though it was written with suffering in mind. My point was that Job’s friends offered judgment and unhelpful platitudes to Job rather than recognizing his plight. Many in both the church and society do just that when it comes to the unhoused. We offer our judgment on why they are suffering (“it’s your fault! You did something wrong…”) which seems to echoes Job’s unhelpful friends. If the book of Job teaches us anything, it’s that we should not assume to know the why as much as we do when it comes to the suffering. We don’t want to be like the Pharisees and Jesus’s own disciples in John 9 who assume that because a man was born blind, it’s because someone sinned or did something wrong.
Jesus’ disciples: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2, NIV, italics mine)
The Pharisees to the healed man: “”You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.” (John 9:34, NIV, italics mine)