How to avoid spiritual self-centeredness

This is a study of Job 22 where we learn how to avoid spiritual self-centeredness. Job 22 tells us there was a man named Eliphaz who believed humans are too insignificant to be useful to God and that obedience to God always brings prosperity. If this is true, then you and I should logically conclude the only reason to serve God would be to gain prosperity for ourselves. That would be a very self-centered way to look at our existence. We’re going to learn Job’s life proves the opposite. Job was very useful to God and his experience teaches us our prosperity should not be our goal when serving God.

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Text Version

At the beginning of Job’s story, he was healthy, wealthy, and righteous. Then there was a dialogue in heaven between Yahweh and Satan. Satan was given permission to test Job’s loyalty to God so Satan destroyed all Job’s possessions, killed his children, and afflicted Job with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. Job did not abandon God, but he didn’t know why he had suffered this calamity.
 Three friends came to visit Job and comfort him. Most of the book of Job records a dialogue that took place between these four men. The friends told Job he was suffering because of sin, but Job insisted he was innocent. After their dialogue ended, Elihu gave his opinion. Then at the end Yahweh spoke and restored Job’s health, wealth, and family. 
Job 22 records one of Eliphaz’s speeches.

Job 22

Job 22:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,

Notice the word “responded”. Throughout this dialogue Job’s friends insisted Job was suffering because he had sinned. Job insisted he was innocent. Job’s friends used a variety of arguments to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned. Job 22 is one of the arguments Eliphaz used. Eliphaz is specifically responding to Job’s insistence he was innocent and righteous.

Job 22:2 “Can a vigorous man be of use to God,
Or a wise man be useful to himself?
Job 22:3 “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you[Job] are righteous,
Or profit if you make your ways perfect?

Notice these were rhetorical questions. Eliphaz intended the answer to be no. Eliphaz’s point was God is so big and humans are so inferior to God that nothing we do can possibly be of any benefit to God. Imagine an ant trying to help a human. It’s an absurd concept. Likewise, God is so much bigger than humans it is absurd to imagine humans helping God. Eliphaz said this because Job had been insisting he was righteous and he was demanding an audience with God, but Eliphaz believed it was immaterial to God whether Job was righteous or not.

Job 22:4 “Is it because of your[Job’s] reverence that He[The Almighty] reproves you,
That He enters into judgment against you?

This was a question and the answer was “no”. Notice the word “reverence”. Eliphaz used absurdity to make his point. Obviously, good behavior would not bring rebuke or judgment; thus, Job was not suffering because of good behavior. The implication was that since Job was not suffering because of something good, then he must have done something bad to earn the rebuke and judgment. The false assumption by Eliphaz was that Job’s suffering was some sort of rebuke or judgment. That was not a correct assumption.

Job 22:5 “Is not your[Job’s] wickedness great,
And your iniquities without end?

This was a question and the implied answer, according to Eliphaz, was “yes”. Eliphaz believed Job was suffering because he had sinned.

Job 22:6 “For you[Job] have taken pledges of your brothers without cause,
And stripped men naked.

Verses 6-9 are a list of Job’s supposed sins according to Eliphaz.

Job 22:7 “To the weary you[Job] have given no water to drink,
And from the hungry you have withheld bread.
Job 22:8 “But the earth belongs to the mighty man,
And the honorable man dwells in it.

Notice the word “but”. This creates a contrast. In contrast to Job who was suffering because he was mistreating the helpless, the earth belongs to the mighty and honorable man.

Job 22:9 “You[Job] have sent widows away empty,
And the strength of the orphans has been crushed.
Job 22:10 “Therefore snares surround you[Job],
And sudden dread terrifies you,
Job 22:11 Or darkness, so that you[Job] cannot see,
And an abundance of water covers you.

Notice the word “therefore” in verse 10. Verses 10 and 11 are the supposed consequences of the actions listed in verses 6-9. This is figurative language. Job wasn’t literally covered by water, but the water was representative of Job’s calamity and despair.

Job 22:12 “Is not God in the height of heaven?
Look also at the distant stars, how high they are!

This is another rhetorical question and the answer is “yes”. The point here was to emphasize God’s greatness. As we discussed early in the chapter, God is far superior to humans and humans are insignificant to God. This leads us to ask how humans can possibly be useful to God.

Job 22:13 “You[Job] say, ‘What does God know?
Can He judge through the thick darkness?
Job 22:14 ‘Clouds are a hiding place for Him[God], so that He cannot see;
And He[God] walks on the vault of heaven.’

Notice the single quotes. Eliphaz was quoting Job. According to Eliphaz, Job believed God is hiding up in thick clouds; therefore, God cannot see what is actually happening on earth.

Job 22:15 “Will you[Job] keep to the ancient path
Which wicked men have trod,
Job 22:16 Who[Wicked men] were snatched away before their time,
Whose foundations were washed away by a river?

Notice this is a question. Notice the phrase “snatched away before their time” indicating the wicked died young. The foundations being washed away also indicate the wicked died young. Eliphaz asked Job if he was going to continue down the path of sin which would result in an early death. This was based on Eliphaz’s false assumption that Job was suffering because of sin.

Job 22:17 “They[Wicked men] said to God, ‘Depart from us!’
And ‘What can the Almighty do to them[the righteous]?’
Job 22:18 “Yet He[The Almighty] filled their[the righteous] houses with good things;
But the counsel of the wicked is far from me[Eliphaz].

Notice the single quotes. Verse 17 is a quote of what the wicked say to God. Notice the word “yet”. Eliphaz said the wicked reject God and believe God cannot help the righteous, but God does help the righteous, according to Eliphaz.

Job 22:19 “The righteous see and are glad,
And the innocent mock them[the wicked],
Job 22:20 Saying,
‘Truly our[the righteous] adversaries[the wicked] are cut off,
And their abundance the fire has consumed.’

Notice the word “see”. The key is to understand what the righteous see, why the righteous are glad, why the innocent mock, and who the innocent mock. Notice the single quotes in verse 20. Verse 20 is what the righteous say about their adversaries. The righteous see their adversaries, the wicked, cut off; therefore, they are glad.

From here to the end of the chapter, Eliphaz was talking directly to Job. Eliphaz told Job to submit to God so that Job would prosper. This is Hebrew poetry so Eliphaz kept saying the same thing in different ways. Keep in mind Eliphaz believed humans cannot be useful to God. When Eliphaz told Job to obey God so that his life would be pleasant, he was basically saying the only reason for humans to obey God is so that we get a pleasant life.

Job 22:21 “Yield now and be at peace with Him[the Almighty];
Thereby good will come to you[Job].
Job 22:22 “Please receive instruction from His[the Almighty’s] mouth
And establish His words in your[Job’s] heart.
Job 22:23 “If you[Job] return to the Almighty, you will be restored;
If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,
Job 22:24 And place your[Job] gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks,
Job 22:25 Then the Almighty will be your[Job] gold
And choice silver to you.
Job 22:26 “For then you[Job] will delight in the Almighty
And lift up your face to God.
Job 22:27 “You[Job] will pray to Him[the Almighty], and He will hear you;
And you will pay your vows.
Job 22:28 “You[Job] will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you;
And light will shine on your ways.
Job 22:29 “When you[Job] are cast down, you will speak with confidence,
And the humble person He[the Almighty] will save.

Notice the word “humble”. Again, Eliphaz was not inspired when he said this, so we can’t use these verses to form our theology; however, Eliphaz was correct when he emphasized the importance of humility.

Job 22:30 “He[the Almighty] will deliver one[Job] who is not innocent,
And he[Job] will be delivered through the cleanness of your[Job] hands.”

Eliphaz switched from second person to third person in verse 30, but his point remained that if Job would submit to God, then he would prosper.

Summary of Eliphaz’s philosophy

Let’s look at verses 2 and 3 again.

Job 22:2 “Can a vigorous man be of use to God,
Or a wise man be useful to himself?
Job 22:3 “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you[Job] are righteous,
Or profit if you make your ways perfect?

Eliphaz believed humans cannot be useful to God because God is so much bigger than we are that we can’t possibly do anything that would help God. Then Eliphaz told Job to submit to God so that Job would prosper.

Job 22:21 “Yield now and be at peace with Him[the Almighty];
Thereby good will come to you[Job].

Self-centeredness

If it’s true we can’t be of use to God and if it’s true obedience to God always brings prosperity, then it would be logical for us to conclude our only goal in life should be to serve ourselves and get as much out of life as we can. Job’s life refuted this philosophy.

Job’s life disproves this

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
Job 1:7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
Then Satan answered the LORD and said,
“From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
Job 1:8 The LORD said to Satan,
“Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

Here we see that Job was useful to God because God was using Job to prove a point to Satan.

Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD,
“Does Job fear God for nothing?
Job 1:10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
Job 1:11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”

God allowed Satan to test Job so Satan destroyed Job’s possessions, killed his children, and afflicted Job with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. Job did not curse God.

Job 2:10 Job said,
“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

We are useful to God

Job was an insignificant pawn in this battle between God and Satan, but Job was useful to God because he remained righteous even when he was suffering, and God used Job’s loyalty to make a point to Satan. The lesson for us is we are a small, insignificant part of humanity and the spiritual world and there is more to our existence than what we can see. We humans don’t like to think of ourselves as mere pawns, but just as Job suffered severe loss so God could make a point to Satan, so too we exist to accomplish God’s agenda, not to gain prosperity for ourselves.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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