The Bible is full of humor and wisdom and if you don’t believe me, read this:
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)
This verse makes me laugh and shout for joy. When you’re done reading this post, you’ll laugh and shout too. Guaranteed, or your money back.
The bit that makes me laugh
There is a long tradition of preaching on the patience of Job. You know how the story goes. Job suffered great loss but endured it patiently, a pious saint in sackcloth. He sat on the ash-heap refusing to blame God for his troubles.
It’s a nice story, but it’s a fairy tale. It’s the Disney version. Read the whole book of Job and you will find that Job wasn’t patient at all. In fact, Job was a self-pitying whiner who accused the Lord of many terrible things. A patient person would keep his troubles to himself, but for long chapter after long chapter Job whines about his misfortunes, brags about his good behavior, and wonders why God hates him.
I will not keep silent… I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 7:11)
Don’t ever hold Job up as a role model for patience. By his own admission, he was bitter and impatient:
Is my complaint directed to a human being? Why should I not be impatient? (Job 21:4)
A patient person doesn’t play the blame game, yet Job repeatedly blamed God for his troubles (e.g., Job 7:11). Job even said that God was trying to kill him:
I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me… I know you will bring me down to death. (Job 30:20-23)
A patient person would tolerate trouble, but Job had more trouble than he could bear. Things were so bad that he hated his life and longed for death (Job 7:15-16). A patient person has hope, but Job wanted to die (Job 17:13-16).
So why is this funny? Because James says, “You have heard of the ‘patience’ of Job.” We sure have. Don’t you see? It’s a 2000-year-old in-joke, for Job wasn’t patient at all. Talking about “the patience of Job” is like talking about “the bravery of Gideon.”
James isn’t saying, “Be patient like Job.” He’s saying “see what the Lord brought about for this impatient man.”
Read to the end of Job’s story and you will know that everything worked out fine. Better than fine. God blessed him super-abundantly and he did so despite the terrible things Job said. Job thought the Lord was uncaring and heartless, but he learned that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
The bit that makes me shout
There’s some wonderful context here because James is writing to encourage us, and he does this by pointing to the famous “prophets of old” (James 5:10). In other words, if you’re looking for a model of patient endurance consider Isaiah who, according to tradition, was sawn in half or Zechariah who was stoned to death.
Gulp. “James, those guys are legends. I can’t relate to them.”
“In that case,” says James, “Let me remind you about the ‘patience’ of Job. You remember that fear-filled whiner who thought God was trying to kill him?”
And immediately James has our attention because, let’s be honest, Job-the-complainer is a lot more relatable than the prophet who walked around naked for three years. If my life went down the toilet I could quite easily imagine myself sitting in the ashes of self-pity like Job.
And this is why I’m not laughing at Job at all.
I’m so glad his story is in the Bible because it shows us that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings, God is still compassionate and merciful. He does not treat us as our sins deserve but he loves us like a father and wants the very best for us.
Are you going through tough times? Then be encouraged by these words of James:
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)
The message of James is not “admire Job’s perseverance,” but fix your eyes on the Lord who helped Job persevere.
In the natural Job was a suicidal failure. Everything he trusted in – his sacrifices, his good behavior, his reasoning – failed him. But the Lord, who is full of compassion and mercy, saved him, restored him, and blessed him superabundantly.
This is good news that should make us shout for joy. If you are going through hard times and wondering if God is deaf or uncaring, then renew your mind and see the Lord who is full of compassion and mercy. Fix your eyes on Jesus and see what the Lord will bring about.
The same God who loved Impatient Job loves you!