What Does it Benefit Me
“They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, And what would we gain if we entreat Him?”
By Reverend Ray
“If religion were purely a matter of recompense and retribution, what would this say about the nature and character of God, his worthiness, and his beauty? Is God to be worshiped for gain?1
Job’s dialogue with his miserable comforters had reached a clear point of delineation by the time we arrive at Chapter 21 of Job. His friends had insisted on a theology of recompense and retribution, that is; God operates purely on the grounds of blessing to the pious, pain and judgment to the wicked. Then working back from Job’s circumstances, they had concluded that Job was receiving the just reward for his obvious sins and wickedness. In other words, they were asserting that Job was merely getting what he had coming to him. His miseries were the logical consequences for their assumed conclusion that he had all along played the part of the hypocrite. Job’s response to their propositional theology was that the facts don’t concur with what they were saying. Job had seen countless individuals that were indisputably wicked, yet they lived long lives, their children prospered as well as they also. These same individuals were those who demonstrated no interest in God or His ways. It is reasonable then that such should conclude that God would be of no benefit to them simply because they had everything they wanted or needed in this world. The defiant words that Job puts in the mouth of these people echoes the word of Pharaoh to Moses when he said; “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)
Such an evaluation of men that rejects God, is enough to prod us to consider our own estate before God. This, in itself, is worthy of elaboration and further attention, but I would like to move behind this topic to see a much more relevant proposition that Job makes about these who would prefer that God depart from them. Behind this pejorative assertion of the wicked to be done with God is the motive or reason they make such a statement. It rests on the shoulders of theology or the understanding of Who God is, and in this way, it is not only the declared atheist that processes God in this way, but much of contemporary Christianity has adopted this utilitarian concept of God.
The wicked ask; “what would we gain if we entreat God?” This states an ideology of God that we might come to expect from those who have their lives firmly rooted in this world. The mindset; “let us eat and drink today for tomorrow we die” can be reasonably understood that it would conclude that God would be of no benefit to them and in this sense, they may be exercising a better conceptualization of God than so many professing Christians that have embraced the faith merely for what they think they might benefit from Him. At least atheism doesn’t assume that they can manipulate God by doing certain ritual or pietistic deeds in order to receive temporal or even eternal benefits. Yet this is exactly the concept of many archaic and legalistic forms of Christianity. It is even widely promoted as the central principle of the prosperity gospel and others. In this sense, we might say that much of Christianity is more atheistic than the secular atheist.
Much of modern Evangelicalism not only preaches a doctrine of benefits, but also encourages the exercise of this proposition for the hope of a promised better life now, and this is not limited to the prosperity gospel in this case. Job’s rebuttal to his friends was that they had a misconception of who God is, and on this basis they had come to some dangerous conclusions, that left alone, would bring about severe condemnation. God is a God that is not swayed or manipulated by man’s selfish patronization of Him. God is the supreme, absolute, sovereign creator God of all material and spiritual existence. On this proposition alone, He, God is worthy of unmitigated devotion and worship, regardless of the circumstances of life. We do not worship God for what we can get from Him, but because; “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)