A little background may be helpful. In the book of Job there is a discussion (more like a fight by the end of it) that takes place between job and his friends about suffering and where someone stands with God. Job’s friends had pretty much descended into the view that if you are suffering and having all kinds of problems – you are sinful and that is why. But Job knew that he had not been sinning and turning away from God. To the contrary, Job had been walking with the Lord in such a way that God actually used him as an example of a person who WAS walking with Him.
In the ongoing argument, Bildad speaks some strong words to Job in chapter 25. Here they are.
“Dominion and awe belong to Him
Who establishes peace in His heights.
Is there any number to His troops?
And upon whom does His light not rise?
How then can a man be just with God
Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?
If even the moon has no brightness
And the stars are not pure in His sight,
How much less man, that maggot,
And the son of man, that worm!
When you take a look, away from this context, these things look pretty sound. God does have the dominion – and awe it due to Him. He has the hosts of heaven – the angels who are as numerous as the sand on the seashore. His light is upon all things (He sees everything) and as a result no man can be just or clean before God on the basis of his own works. In comparison to the light of God’s glory shining from within Him as an absolute source, all the burning stars in all the galaxies are like the dark. And in light of the fullness of Who God is – man has no glory except that which God gives him. And man in the depth of his sins – is very maggot and worm like.
But, in light of what his friend Job needed, was Bildad being helpful at all? This is little more than a sanctimonious speech that is spoken far more for Bildad than for Job. It makes Bildad feel good – and right – and somewhat full of himself . . . but it is doing nothing for his friend Job who is hurting terribly.
So Job helps his friend with a little sarcasm.
What a help you are to the weak!
How you have saved the arm without strength!
What counsel you have given to the on without wisdom!
What helpful insight you have abundantly provided!
Sarcasm alert! Bildad’s words have done none of these things! There is a way we can speak that offers very little to those in need – to those who are hurting – to those in pain – to those who seriously need godly counsel and help. Bildad offered truth – because what he said is accurate about God. Dominion – peace – power – unimaginable armies of angels – Omniscient – man, sinful in light of God’s glory. But why has Bildad said these things?
Even the devils know the truth about God – they even tremble. Even the devil himself quoted scripture – but it was used for his own wicked ends – and not as God intended.
We can all sound . . . very sound. But are our words being used to do what God wants – and to say what God wants said in a situation? What SPIRIT is being expressed when we speak. Here is a statement Isaiah prophetically made about what we would see when Jesus came as the Messiah.
“A bruised reed He will not break,
and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” Isaiah 42:3
Jesus always spoke the truth. But He did not use the truth to crush or to extinguish people.
- There before Him was a woman caught in the very act of adultery.
- There before Him was a disgusting, traitorous tax collector.
- There before Him were those who were being spiritually bludgeoned with the Law.
- There before Him was a man filled with a legion of demons.
- There before Him was a criminal who earlier was hurling abuse at Him like everyone else.
What did Jesus do? Did He speak to them the truth – so that they could know just how wrong they were – and to stomp them before His great theological prowess?
One thing to note is that righteousness was upheld in every one of these circumstances. The adulterous woman was told to go and sin no more. The tax collector turned from cheating others and even gave amazing restitution to those he had cheated. The demons were cast out. The criminal was given paradise after he repented of his sin. What is important though is seeing HOW the truth was used in each of these situations. It was used to help. It was used to redeem. It was used to save. It was NOT used to prove the other person wrong.
None of these times did Jesus use the truth to prove His point right – while showing the other person just how very wrong they were! Jesus used the truth indeed to do a cutting – but it was the cutting of surgery – so that there could be healing – not the slicing and dicing of an opponent.
The spirit expressed through us is very important. It can be the difference between healing words, and hurtful words. We need to consider Job’s challenge when we want to speak the truth – without love.
- Am I being a help to the weak?
- Am I saving one without strength?
- Am I giving wise counsel?
- Am I speaking helpful insight?
I am a great lover of sound theology! It is very important to have – and we are admonished to hold fast to the truth. But when I turn what I call sound theology into what I will call here, “smashing theology,” I’m not being nearly as sound as I think. Using even good theology to crush and extinguish the dimly burning light of others is not godly. We cannot change what the Bible says – but we sure can speak it with love. How much better they will receive it when we speak it from a heart that is broken – one that even weeps for their current condition.
Truth does not change. Righteousness is what God says it is. But how I use it and whose “spirit” is expressed through me as I share it is something to seriously consider before I open my mouth and speak it. That is never more important than when I am speaking to someone who is in serious pain. Our Lord did not crush a reed that was already broken – and He did not extinguish a dimly burning wick – and we would be wise to follow His example as we speak the truth to those who need to hear it so very much.