But God, that’s not fair!

4,000 years ago a man named Elihu insisted God is always fair and just, meaning people only suffer if and when they deserve to suffer. However, the life of Job teaches us that sometimes men do suffer even though they don’t deserve it. 2,000 years later, Jesus taught that life is not fair, and when Peter asked Jesus for fairness and equity, Jesus told him to focus on obedience, instead. Today, because of feminism, many Christians revolt against Biblical statements on gender roles because the roles are not fair. However, the Bible teaches us we should not be seeking fairness. Instead, we should focus on obedience.


Elihu learned that a very wealthy man named Job lost everything. All his possessions were destroyed and his children were killed. Elihu was present when three men visited Job and tried to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned. Job insisted he was innocent and that God had turned against him for some unknown reason. The dialogue between Job and the three men went back and forth. Job began insisting God had wronged him, and then Job demanded that God explain Himself. Eventually the dialogue between Job and the three men ceased because neither side persuaded the other side.

Elihu listened to this dialogue in silence, but as he listened he became more and more agitated. He was agitated at Job because of Job’s attitude towards God and he was agitated at the three men because they failed to convince Job. When the four men ceased speaking, Elihu began to speak. Job 34 is Elihu’s second speech.

Listen to Elihu.

Job 34:1 Then Elihu continued and said,
Job 34:2 “Hear my[Elihu] words, you wise men[Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar],
And listen to me, you who know.
Job 34:3 “For the ear tests words
As the palate tastes food.
Job 34:4 “Let us[Elihu, Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] choose for ourselves what is right;
Let us know among ourselves what is good.

Job is innocent.

Job 34:5 “For Job has said, ‘I am righteous,
But God has taken away my right;
Job 34:6 Should I[Job] lie concerning my right?
My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’

Verses 5-6 are Elihu’s summary of what Job said in Job 3-31. It is an accurate summary.

Job is delusional.

Job 34:7 “What man is like Job,
Who drinks up derision like water,
Job 34:8 Who[Job] goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
And walks with wicked men?

Verses 7-8 are Elihu’s response to Job’s claim of innocence.

Notice the word “derision” in verse 7. Elihu believed Job was deluded.

Verse 8: Elihu accused Job of walking with wicked men.

God is not fair.

Job 34:9 “For he[Job] has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
When he is pleased with God.’

Verse 9 is also Elihu’s summary of Job’s statements.

According to Elihu, Job believed there is no benefit to happily serving God. Job believed he was a good man and had always been pleased with God, and yet God had not protected Job from his catastrophe.

God is fair.

Job 34:10 “Therefore, listen to me[Elihu], you men of understanding[Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar].
Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to do wrong.
Job 34:11 “For He[God] pays a man according to his[man’s] work,
And makes him[man] find it according to his[man’s] way.
Job 34:12 “Surely, God will not act wickedly,
And the Almighty will not pervert justice.

Verse 12 is key. Elihu stated very clearly that God does not pervert justice, meaning Job would not be suffering unless he had done something to deserve suffering.

God is sovereign.

Job 34:13 “Who gave Him[God] authority over the earth?
And who has laid on Him the whole world?
Job 34:14 “If He[God] should determine to do so,
If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
Job 34:15 All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.

Verse 13 is a rhetorical question. No one gave God authority, He has authority by virtue of being the Creator.

Elihu’s point was that God is sovereign over everything, including Job’s calamity, meaning God could have prevented Job’s calamity but chose not to, meaning God wanted Job’s calamity to happen.

Does Job condemn God?

Job 34:16 “But if you[Job] have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my[Elihu] words.
Job 34:17 “Shall one who hates justice rule?
And will you[Job] condemn the righteous mighty One,

Verse 17 was a very good question. Throughout the dialogue recorded in Job 3-31, Job had accused God of wronging him. Elihu simply asked Job if he was sure he wanted to condemn God.

God is sovereign.

Job 34:18 Who[God] says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
To nobles, ‘Wicked ones’;
Job 34:19 Who[God] shows no partiality to princes
Nor regards the rich above the poor,
For they all are the work of His[God] hands?
Job 34:20 “In a moment they[rich and poor] die, and at midnight
People are shaken and pass away,
And the mighty are taken away without a hand.

God knows everything.

Job 34:21 “For His[God’s] eyes are upon the ways of a man,
And He[God] sees all his[man’s] steps.
Job 34:22 “There is no darkness or deep shadow
Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
Job 34:23 “For He[God] does not need to consider a man further,
That he[man] should go before God in judgment.

God is able to act fairly and justly because He knows everything. There is no such thing as hiding sin from God.

God is sovereign.

Job 34:24 “He[God] breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry,
And sets others in their place.
Job 34:25 “Therefore He[God] knows their[mighty men] works,
And He overthrows them in the night,
And they are crushed.
Job 34:26 “He[God] strikes them[mighty men] like the wicked
In a public place,
Job 34:27 Because they[mighty men] turned aside from following Him[God],
And had no regard for any of His ways;
Job 34:28 So that they[mighty men] caused the cry of the poor to come to Him[God],
And that He might hear the cry of the afflicted —
Job 34:29 When He[God] keeps quiet, who then can condemn?
And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him,
That is, in regard to both nation and man? —
Job 34:30 So that godless men would not rule
Nor be snares of the people.

No one admits their guilt.

Job 34:31 “For has anyone said to God,
‘I have borne chastisement;
I will not offend anymore;
Job 34:32 Teach me what I do not see;
If I have done iniquity,
I will not do it again’?

Job was unrealistic.

Job 34:33 “Shall He[God] recompense on your[Job’s] terms, because you have rejected it?
For you must choose, and not I[Elihu];
Therefore declare what you know.

Verse 33 was a rhetorical question. Elihu meant God will not do things on Job’s terms.

Job was wrong.

Job 34:34 “Men of understanding will say to me[Elihu],
And a wise man who hears me,
Job 34:35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge,
And his words are without wisdom.
Job 34:36 ‘Job ought to be tried to the limit,
Because he answers like wicked men.
Job 34:37 ‘For he[Job] adds rebellion to his sin;
He claps his hands among us[wise men],
And multiplies his words against God.’”

Is God fair?

Job, Elihu, and the other men did not know the real reason Job was suffering. Job was suffering because Satan was trying to get Job to curse God. The Bible makes it clear Job was righteous and that he did not deserve to suffer. Thus, we learn that life is not fair. We also learn that Job’s suffering was not punishment; instead, it was an opportunity to demonstrate his love and loyalty to God.

Jesus taught about fairness.

2,000 years after Job and Elihu’s lifetime, God came to earth as a man named Jesus. One of the subjects Jesus spoke while on earth was fairness.

The distribution of rewards is not fair.

Notice the phrase “kingdom of heaven is like …” in verse 1. Jesus spoke this parable to describe how God will hand out rewards to men.

The labor

Matt. 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Matt. 20:2 “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Matt. 20:3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place;
Matt. 20:4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.
Matt. 20:5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
Matt. 20:6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’
Matt. 20:7 “They *said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He *said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’

The reward

Matt. 20:8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’
Matt. 20:9 “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
Matt. 20:10 “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
Matt. 20:11 “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
Matt. 20:12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
Matt. 20:13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
Matt. 20:14 ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
Matt. 20:15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’

Jesus clearly taught that God will not distribute rewards according to our concept of fairness and justice.

The distribution of suffering is not fair.

John 21:18 “Truly, truly, I[Jesus] say to you[Peter], when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”
John 21:19 Now this He[Jesus] said, signifying by what kind of death he[Peter] would glorify God. And when He[Jesus] had spoken this, He *said to him[Peter], “Follow Me!”
John 21:20 Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”
John 21:21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”
John 21:22 Jesus *said to him[Peter], “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Jesus told Peter he was going to suffer. Peter asked if Jesus was going to treat him fairly and make John suffer also. Jesus told Peter to focus on obedience and not worry about what would happen to John.

Gender roles are not fair.

Today, because of feminism, many Christians revolt against Biblical statements on gender roles because the roles are not fair. However, just as Jesus told Peter to focus on obedience and not fairness, so too we in the 21st century need to accept the fact that gender roles are not fair and equal. Instead of trying to make them equal, we need to focus on obeying God. And just as Job’s suffering was an opportunity to demonstrate his love for God, so too the inequality in the gender roles is an opportunity to demonstrate love for God.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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