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Does Poverty Indicate Sin?

Thanks for watching this episode of Bible Mountain dotcom. This episode is part of a series of studies on the book of Job called Why Do People Suffer? In this episode we will answer the question, “Does poverty indicate sin?”. Let’s start with some context.

The book of Job tells us about a man named Job who lived around 2,000 BC. Job lived roughly the same time Abraham lived, which was after Adam and Noah, but before Moses, David, Daniel, and Jesus. At the beginning of Job’s story, Job was healthy, wealthy, and wise. But then Satan destroyed everything Job owned, killed Job’s children, and ruined Job’s health.

Three friends named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to visit Job and comfort him. They had a long discussion with Job about his misfortune. Job spoke first, then Eliphaz, then Job, then Bildad, then Job, then Zophar, then Job again, and this pattern kept repeating. Essentially, Job’s friends tried to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned, but Job kept insisting he was innocent. Towards the end a man named Elihu offered his input, and then at the very end Yahweh spoke the final word on Job’s situation, and Job’s health, wealth, and family were restored.

Throughout this dialogue, Job’s friends used various arguments to persuade Job he was suffering because he had sinned. In this episode we are going to look at Eliphaz’s speech recorded in Job 15 in which Eliphaz tried to persuade Job that wicked people never prosper. Let’s start at Job 15:1.

Job 15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,

Notice Eliphaz was the one speaking. Notice the word “responded”. Job was the one speaking in the previous chapter; thus, we conclude here Eliphaz was speaking primarily to Job.

Job 15:2 “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge
And fill himself with the east wind?
Job 15:3 “Should he[a wise man] argue with useless talk,
Or with words which are not profitable?

Notice Eliphaz started with questions. There are actually nine questions in the first 14 verses. These two questions were rhetorical. The answer is “no”, a wise person should not engage in useless talk. I am not sure if Eliphaz was saying he himself was wise; therefore, he should probably not respond to Job; or if he was saying Job’s windy talk proved that Job was not wise.
Next, Eliphaz openly criticized Job.

Job 15:4 “Indeed, you[Job] do away with reverence
And hinder meditation before God.
Job 15:5 “For your[Job’s] guilt teaches your mouth,
And you choose the language of the crafty.
Job 15:6 “Your[Job’s] own mouth condemns you, and not I[Eliphaz];
And your own lips testify against you.

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Then Eliphaz asked more questions. Again, these were rhetorical questions. These were intended to criticize Job.

Job 15:7 “Were you[Job] the first man to be born,
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
Job 15:8 “Do you[Job] hear the secret counsel of God,
And limit wisdom to yourself?
Job 15:9 “What do you[Job] know that we[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] do not know?
What do you understand that we do not?
Job 15:10 “Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] ,
Older than your father.
Job 15:11 “Are the consolations of God too small for you[Job],
Even the word spoken gently with you?
Job 15:12 “Why does your[Job’s] heart carry you away?
And why do your eyes flash,
Job 15:13 That you[Job] should turn your spirit against God
And allow such words to go out of your mouth?

Verse 13 was a strong accusation and condemnation.

Job 15:14 “What is man, that he should be pure,
Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Job 15:15 “Behold, He[God] puts no trust in His holy ones,
And the heavens are not pure in His sight;
Job 15:16 How much less one[a man] who is detestable and corrupt,
Man, who drinks iniquity like water!
Job 15:17 “I[Eliphaz] will tell you[Job], listen to me;
And what I have seen I will also declare;
Job 15:18 What wise men have told,
And have not concealed from their fathers,
Job 15:19 To whom alone the land was given,
And no alien passed among them.

Up to this point, everything Eliphaz said was merely an introduction. Beginning with verse 20, Eliphaz started to make his main point. Notice Eliphaz was describing what he thought is the plight of the wicked. Basically, Eliphaz believed wicked people have a miserable life.

Job 15:20 “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
And numbered are the years stored up for the ruthless.
Job 15:21 “Sounds of terror are in his[the wicked’s] ears;
While at peace the destroyer comes upon him.
Job 15:22 “He[The wicked] does not believe that he will return from darkness,
And he is destined for the sword.
Job 15:23 “He[The wicked] wanders about for food, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is at hand.
Job 15:24 “Distress and anguish terrify him[the wicked],
They overpower him like a king ready for the attack,

Notice verse 25 starts with the word “because”. This was Eliphaz’s belief as to why the wicked suffer.

Job 15:25 Because he[the wicked] has stretched out his hand against God
And conducts himself arrogantly against the Almighty.
Job 15:26 “He[the wicked] rushes headlong at Him[God]
With his massive shield.
Job 15:27 “For he[the wicked] has covered his face with his fat
And made his thighs heavy with flesh.

And then Eliphaz resumed his description of the sufferings of the wicked. Notice the theme of poverty through these verses.

Job 15:28 “He[the wicked] has lived in desolate cities,
In houses no one would inhabit,
Which are destined to become ruins.
Job 15:29 “He[the wicked] will not become rich, nor will his wealth endure;
And his grain will not bend down to the ground.
Job 15:30 “He[the wicked] will not escape from darkness;
The flame will wither his shoots,
And by the breath of His mouth he will go away.
Job 15:31 “Let him[the wicked] not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself;
For emptiness will be his reward.
Job 15:32 “It will be accomplished before his[the wicked’s] time,
And his palm branch will not be green.
Job 15:33 “He[the wicked] will drop off his unripe grape like the vine,
And will cast off his flower like the olive tree.
Job 15:34 “For the company of the godless is barren,
And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt.
Job 15:35 “They[the godless] conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity,
And their mind prepares deception.”

That is the end of Eliphaz’s speech. Let’s review his beliefs about the wicked.

Job 15:20 “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
And numbered are the years stored up for the ruthless.

Notice the word “all” in verse 20. Eliphaz said the wicked man writhes all his days.

Job 15:29 “He[the wicked] will not become rich, nor will his wealth endure;
And his grain will not bend down to the ground.

Notice the negative words in verse 29. Eliphaz said the wicked will not become rich and his grain will not bend to the ground. A stalk of grain bends to the ground when the head is heavy with many kernels of grain. If the stalk is not bending toward the ground, then there is little or no grain.

In other words, Eliphaz claimed wicked people never prosper. Is this true? Before we answer that, let’s consider the ramifications. If it is true that wicked people never prosper, then prosperity would prove a person’s righteousness, and poverty would indicate sinfulness. Eliphaz was trying to convince Job he had lost everything because of sin. If that was true, then poverty in our lives would also indicate sin. Let’s consider Psalm 73.

Psa. 73:1 Surely God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in heart!
Psa. 73:2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.

Notice the next two verses.

Psa. 73:3 For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Psa. 73:4 For there are no pains in their death,
And their body is fat.

And now let’s look at verse 12.

Psa. 73:12 Behold, these are the wicked;
And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.

Asaph wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he clearly indicated there are wicked people who prosper. Let’s look also at Ecclesiastes.

Eccl. 7:15 I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.
Eccl. 8:14 There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility.

Solomon also wrote these verses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These verses teach us sometimes wicked people do prosper. That brings us back to this question: Does poverty indicate sin? The answer is no, poverty does not indicate sin. There may be some people who are poor because of sin or bad choices, but poverty itself does not prove there is sin. Just as Eliphaz and his friends should not have concluded Job’s poverty indicated sin, so too we should not look at someone’s poverty and conclude they are suffering because of sin.

 

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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