Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing?
I. TRUE RELIGION BRINGS GREAT REWARDS. As a matter of fact, Job was making the best of both worlds. While he was fearing and serving God, God was blessing and smiling upon him.
1. Religion often brings earthly prosperity. It is frequently true that "honesty is the best policy." God shows his love in very evident ways to many of his children, blessing them "in basket and store." When a good man is prosperous in business or home it is only right that he should acknowledge the kind hand from which all his happiness comes.
2. Religion always brings heavenly prosperity. It must be well with the soul that is near to God. He who owns Christ does most certainly possess a pearl of great price. Even the poor man in his adversity is rich with spiritual treasure when he has the love of God in his heart.
II. THE RELIGION WHICH DEPENDS ON REWARDS IS NOT TRUE. Job got much through his service of God, or rather along with that service; for all he had was of God's free grace, not of desert. But if he had only been religious in the spirit of the hireling, working for pay, his religion would have been rank hypocrisy. This is true of future as well as earthly rewards. It applies not only to the tradesman who goes to church that he may please church-going customers; it is true also of one who is a slave to "other-worldliness," and who behaves like a fanatical Mohammedan when he rushes forward to certain death in battle, inspired by the expectation of flying immediately to a paradise of houris. Self-seeking in religion is always fatal. It is natural to look forward to the rewards which God promises; but it is fatal to all devotion to make the pursuit of those rewards our chief motive. The true servant of God will say -
"And I will ask for no reward, III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO RENDER DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO GOD. The accuser did not believe this; he spoke with Satanic cynicism. There are people who pride themselves on being men of the world, and who deny that there is any such thing as disinterested generosity. Possibly the reason is that they judge all men by their own low standard; or that they have not the eyes to see the best side of life. With all their boasted keenness of vision there is a whole realm of noble living which is entirely beyond their ken. The Satan-spirit can never understand the Christ-spirit. Now, the great problem of the Book of Job lies in this. That book is to prove the falsity of Satan's base insinuation. It is to show to the astonished accuser that disinterested devotion is possible. It is to prove, in the extreme instance of Job, that a man may lose all the apparent rewards of religion, and yet not give up his religion; that he may suffer grievous adversity and yet not renounce his God. Job is a magnificent illustration of this truth. But behind Job is God, and the real secret is that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion. - W.F.A.
III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO RENDER DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO GOD. The accuser did not believe this; he spoke with Satanic cynicism. There are people who pride themselves on being men of the world, and who deny that there is any such thing as disinterested generosity. Possibly the reason is that they judge all men by their own low standard; or that they have not the eyes to see the best side of life. With all their boasted keenness of vision there is a whole realm of noble living which is entirely beyond their ken. The Satan-spirit can never understand the Christ-spirit. Now, the great problem of the Book of Job lies in this. That book is to prove the falsity of Satan's base insinuation. It is to show to the astonished accuser that disinterested devotion is possible. It is to prove, in the extreme instance of Job, that a man may lose all the apparent rewards of religion, and yet not give up his religion; that he may suffer grievous adversity and yet not renounce his God. Job is a magnificent illustration of this truth. But behind Job is God, and the real secret is that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion. - W.F.A.
e.g., Kempis "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah De Imitatione Christi," and in books which treat systematically of the religious life, this is painfully apparent. And we have a lurking suspicion that such is what the Bible and the Church alike teach us. First let me speak of rewards and punishments. There is no doubt that Scripture and the Church lay stress upon the glorious life which the righteous shall inherit, and the unutterable woe which shall befall the wicked. Such teaching has still, and ever will have, its due place and power in the work of the ministry of Christ. It is, however, a small part of Christian teaching. If the exhortations and motives to Christian life were to begin and end here, there might be some colour of selfishness about it. But this is only a first step. It is, if you will, an appeal to men's self-interest for a moment, — but only for a moment, — to lead them up afterwards to something infinitely purer and higher. A Christian lives on through such childish feelings to the full unselfish manhood in Christ Jesus. When we remember that self is the very root and essence of sin, it is not surprising that in the first stage of dealing with such a nature as man's there should be an adaptation of the means employed to such a condition. To represent the hope of reward or fear of pain as the continually abiding and sole motive of the Christian life all through, is to ignore nine-tenths of the exhortations of the New Testament — is utterly to misrepresent and pervert the teaching of our Lord — is to deny the truth of countless Christian lives which we have read of or have seen. There is another thing of still more practical importance. There is no word which we use more frequently in religious phraseology than the word "salvation." Is there not too great a tendency in many of us to always speak and think of that salvation as solely an escape from some future punishment? If we regard the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God as merely a means by which we are to escape some future pain, I do not know whether there may not be a strong tinge of selfishness in our faith. But there is a more awful thing than pain or punishment, there is sin It is to save us from sin that Christ died. If then the salvation be deliverance from sin, and if self be sin (for sin is ever the assertion of "I" against the all-good, all-loving God) — is it selfish to conquer self through the power of Christ — is it selfish to become so one with Christ as to have self crucified with Him, so that we no longer live unto self, but unto Him who died and rose again? There can be no real spiritual life until we learn to loathe sin — not merely the results of sin. Let us tell men, sin is your enemy; sin, here in your hearts; sin, which is robbing your life of all its joy and sweetness; sin, which is grinding like a hot chain into your very flesh. From that Christ died to save you. Is not this a pure, unselfish Gospel? "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." That power has actually been felt by many. Then there dawns on us gradually the new life; self is nailed to the Cross — to Christ's Cross with Him — and henceforth it is not I that live, "but Christ that liveth in me"; not a calm, indifferent life, but a life of constant struggle against all sin and evil, — and yet a life in which self-sacrifice itself becomes easy, for I am "dead to sin, and living unto righteousness "
Doth Job fear God for nought?
1. In the first place, with all that is dignified and commendable and noble in human nature, there is a disposition — possibly we might go further and say, — a predisposition — to judge the general conduct of our fellows in a spirit of detraction. From what we know of ourselves, from what we know of others in their confessed schemes, from envy, from jealousy, from a certain conceit of our own shrewdness in penetrating character, we easily drift into the habit of forming low estimates of the motives of men and women, and attributing their movements to influences and aims and desires which originate, not in the upper, but in the lower ranges of incitement. The multiplied warnings of Scripture against these harsh judgments and prejudgments and misjudgments show us what a bad aptitude there is in the heart for this kind of indulgence. We are prone to level down. In presence of a commendable action how fatal is the facility with which our nimble tongues fall to saying, "Certainly; but the thing was done just to catch votes, or to win the favour and patronage of the rich, or to please the populace."
2. In the second place, there is, beyond all gainsaying, a vast amount of action among men whose secret spring is some sort of personal advantage or gain. Large numbers make unblushing confession of this. Of many who do not confess it, and only half realise it, perhaps, it is still true. Their only controlling thought is pleasure or profit or promotion. It runs through all they do. They choose their professions, they marry, they espouse causes, they join political parties, they enter clubs, they identify themselves with churches, all in a temper of self-interest — a self-interest which it is impossible to distinguish from selfishness. It is not a matter of injustice nor is it at all uncharitable to ascribe selfish and even sinister motives to this kind of folk.
3. In the third place, there is the consideration which Satan and those who coincide with him in his view of things may bring forward in support of the position taken by them on this question, and which admits of no successful disputing, namely, that fearing God — fearing God in the way of love and reverent loyalty — always does secure to one something worth having. Satan was right in his intimation that Job was getting a good deal — a good deal that was substantial and abiding — out of his fidelity. God never permits a man to do this thing: serve Him for naught. Never yet did a man come into the faith of God, and maintain the integrity of his soul before God and the world, without receiving something rich and rare in return for it. As the event proved, Job was getting something out of his serene and unfaltering trust and his upright conduct besides wife and children and houses and barns and cattle and servants and renown among his fellows — something which stood by him, and to which he could cling in all the darkness and under all the bitter bruising of the after days. We say often that virtue is its own reward. It is. It is often an unutterable satisfaction just to have the consciousness in one that he is sincere and clean and upright, and means to stand square on the truth and do his duty, come what will. But virtue has other rewards. It has rewards outside itself. Early and late, at home and abroad, at the hearthstone, in social circles, in business operations, in politics, honesty is the best policy. It pays to be pure. In the long run nothing else does pay. It is Gerizim and Ebal over again. On the side of righteousness are the blessings. On the side of unrighteousness are the curses. Hence it comes to pass that it is a nice psychological question, and one requiring not a little analytical skill, to run the knife in and turn it about in a way to distinguish between the stress of motives which look to the doing of right solely because it is right, and the doing of right out of consideration for what follows. One with as much dialectic cunning as Satan has can confuse almost anybody at this point. There is the fact of the waiting of the reward upon the conduct. Who shall say the conduct is not with an eye to the reward? At least the suggestion can always be made to seem plausible. Still, in spite of all in evidence to the contrary, and in spite of all appearances to the contrary, there is disinterestedness in the world.
(F. A. Noble, D. D.)
(T. Teignmouth Shore, M. A.)
I. SELFISHNESS IS NOT THE ESSENCE OF HUMAN NATURE AS PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE. Satan denies that there is unselfishness in Job. He would imply that it is not in God's power to create a disinterested love of Himself, even in a regenerate creature — that self-interest is the hidden worm at the root of everything, good or bad. Think —
1. Of the regenerate man, and see whether God's plan of forming him proceeds on the principle of appealing to selfishness. It is granted that the Bible, all through, presses men with threatenings of punishment, and holds out to them promises of happiness to lead them to a new life. But this is to be remembered, that it begins its work with men who are sunk in sin, and that the essence of sin is selfishness. It must arrest and raise them by motives adapted to their condition, provided that these motives are not wrong, and enlightened self-interest, that is, self-interest which is consistent with the good of others is not wrong. The Bible is too bread and human not to bring all fair motives into exercise. So before the Gospel, and even with it, we must have Sinai's word, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." But to affirm that this is the final, or even the prevailing motive of the new life, is to mistake or misrepresent the Bible, which is constantly advancing from the domain of threatening and outward promise to that of free and unselfish love. Its strength of appeal from the very beginning lies in the mercy of God pardoning unconditionally. As a man rises into the knowledge of the Divine plan he seeks and serves God, not from the hope of what he is to receive from Him, but from the delight which he finds in Him — in the true, the pure, the loving, that dwell in the Father of Lights. If they still charge us with selfishness in seeking this, because it is our happiness, we confess we know not what is meant by the charge. We do not seek Him for the joy, we find the joy in seeking. God acts towards man on the principle of free, undeserved love, that He may form in him the spirit and image of His own action, creating a spring of self-sacrifice which flows back to God, and overflows to men. The Son of God, who knows what is in man, believed this possible. He made a John, a Paul, a Peter, a Stephen — hearts that drank of the cup of His self-sacrifice, and forgot themselves, and laboured, and suffered, and died, like Him, for the world's good. It is certain that the Bible proceeds on the principle of creating unselfish action in the regenerate heart.
2. Even in the case of unregenerate men, the Bible does not affirm that the only law at work is one of utter selfishness. Though man is fallen, the elements of human nature are still there. They are not annihilated, neither are they demonised. The deep radical defect is Godward, that man has ceased to retain Him in his knowledge, and has expelled His love from his heart. There yet shines many a fair tint on human nature. Whatever unrenewed men may be to God, they perform to their fellow men, oftentimes, the most unselfish acts. They give, hoping to receive nothing again. Let us not think that we discredit the Gospel, by seeming to leave these fair features of humanity outside its regenerating circle, but let us rather widen that circle to embrace them, and believe that if there is anything glorious upon earth, or beautiful in humanity, we owe it to the power of Christ's death, and the breadth of His intercession.
II. THE RESULTS OF BELIEF IN UNMITIGATED SELFISHNESS. The first evident consequence in him who holds it is a want of due regard for his fellow creatures. With no belief in principle or goodness, he can cherish no reverence, and feel no pity. The next consequence is the want of any centre of rest within itself. Another effect is the failure of any real hold of God. The spirit, Satan, here, had no just views of a God of truth and purity and goodness.
III. SOME MEANS THAT MAY BE ADOPTED AS A REMEDY BY THOSE WHO ARE IN DANGER OF FALLING INTO THIS FAITH. We should seek to bring our own life into close contact with what is genuine in our fellow men. Next to the cultivation of society and friendships among living men, we may mention the choice of books. Then, in judging humanity, we must beware of taking a part for the whole. The last means for removing the view that man is incapable of rising above self is to apprehend the Divine care of human nature. He who has studied the person of Christ, and laid his hand, however feebly, on the throbbings of that heart, will not be in danger of the view that self-love, utter and eternal, is part of the nature of man.
(John Ker, D. D.)
I. THE IMPORT OF THIS INSINUATED SNEER. It is chiefly interesting to us because the words are not yet dead. Satan's agents imitate their master, and use the same arguments and the same sophistries. It is still a common device of the world to attribute good actions to evil motives. Sometimes men are said to be pious to obtain influence. If a person gives largely to church building, the world will hint that he wants to "get his name up." If a handsome subscription is sent to any particular object, the donor "desires to see his name in print." Sometimes men are said to be pious because of a far-seeing expediency. They are said to go to this or that church on account of the patronage they expect to receive. Tradesmen are accused of attaching themselves to the particular sect from which they hope to derive the greatest profit. How many a poor person exclaims, "Oh, if the squire had only to fight with hunger, he could not afford to be religious."
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS INSINUATED SNEER. What a power there is in a covert insult! Even the devil's speech was not without a terrific influence. It appealed even to the Almighty. He granted the arch-fiend the opportunity to try his theory and to prove his assertion. And all this bitter experiment recoiled upon poor Job. For weeks and months and years he was as molten gold in the devil's crucible. He lost all he had. Do not let us run away with the idea that the wicked have no influence now. They are lords of the present world, and they can make the life of the righteous man very bitter for him, whether he be rich or whether he be poor. And God permits those influences to continue, in order that He may vindicate His people and manifest His own power and glory.
III. THE UNINTENTIONAL TRUTH OF THIS INSINUATED SNEER. Satan overreached himself after all. No man does serve God for nought. There is no such thing as entire self-abnegation in this world. Job proved in the end that his principles were sound. But what are religious principles after all? A determination to serve God because we are convinced that to serve Him is the best policy. We cannot divest religion of selfishness. The Scriptures teach us that we love Him because "He first loved us," and because He has redeemed us, and promised us eternal life. An ideal, uninterested religion may be the attainment of heaven and the angels, but it cannot be of men.
(C. Beard, B. A.)
(S. Cox, D. D.)
1. Satan's reply discloses his conception of Divine providence. "Hast Thou not made a hedge about him?" There are two ways of looking at the hedges, or limitations of life. Those who know of what use they are in protecting and guarding men, accept them gratefully. Those who know little of the uses of such limitations are often found to be impatient of them. Satan's desire concerning every life is that there shall be no hedge about it.
2. Satan's reply supplies his estimate of piety, that it is selfish. A literal translation would be, "Doth Job fear God gratis?" He suspects that there is no such thing as disinterested goodness. If Job's piety had turned out to be selfish, the probability is that the piety of the best of us would prove equally selfish.
3. Satan's reply expresses his estimate of Job. The mission of Satan, according to his own showing, had been that of a peripatetic critic. He had failed to tempt Job, so all he could do was, suggest a false and unworthy motive. When we deal with human motive, we deal with one of the most mysterious things in God's world. Now, I do not expect a better theory of goodness from the devil than that at best it is selfish. No one can rise to a higher altitude than he himself occupies, and when anyone tells me that Christian motive is necessarily a selfish motive I know where he is living. I know the altitude he has reached. It is a law of life that the man who is incapable of an unselfish act is the greatest sceptic on God's earth about the unselfishness of others. He can only grasp the possibility of being unselfish by being partaker of that exalted quality himself. On that principle, when Satan speaks about piety, I do not expect that he should see anything higher or nobler than selfishness in it. I know of nothing so satanic in life as to impute impious motives to godly men. That scepticism as to the possibility of disinterested piety gives me a glimpse into the depths of depravity in the heart of the being who is capable of uttering it. The denial of the possibility of disinterested piety reveals the saddest degradation on the part of the man who is capable of such a denial. There is no power that can save him except that which shall renew his whole nature; for there is no power that can redeem a man save as it makes him unselfish. After all, down deep in the heart of man, there is a profound belief in and admiration of unselfishness. Who are the great men of the past, even in the world's estimation? The men who denied themselves for the sake of their fellows; great reformers, who suffered in order to uplift their fellows. We all instinctively feel keenly the charge of selfishness. We are all ashamed of being considered selfish. In this even those who profess to cling to the philosophy of selfishness are nobler than their creed. Let me remind you of the fact, that as long as we gather round the Cross, and recognise there the highest expression of a surrendering love for us, so long shall we believe in the possibility of self-denial and disinterested services, and our highest desire and aim shall be that the mind which was also in Christ Jesus may be in us.
1. That riches will make any man serve God; that it is no great matter to be holy when we have abundance; a man that prospers in the world cannot choose but be good. This Satan implies in these words, and this is an extreme lie (Deuteronomy 28:47). Abundance doth not draw the heart unto God. Yet Satan would infer that it doth. This might well be retorted upon Satan himself. Satan, why didst not thou serve God then? thou didst once receive more outward blessings from God than ever Job did, the blessedness of an angel.
2. There is this in it: "Doth Job fear God for nought?" Satan intimates that God could have no servants for love, none unless He did pay them extremely; that God is such a Master, and His work such as none would meddle with, unless allured by benefits. Here is another lie Satan windeth up closely in this speech; for the truth is, God's servants follow Him for Himself: the very excellences of God, and sweetness of His ways, are the argument and the wages by which His people are chiefly moved to His service. God indeed makes many promises to those that serve Him, but He never makes any bargains with them: His obey Him freely. Satan makes bargains to hire men to his service (Matthew 4:9).
3. Then there is a third sense full of falsehood, which Satan casteth upon Job, "Doth Job fear God for nought?" that is, Job hath a bias in all that he doth, he is carried by the gain of godliness, not by any delight in godliness, thus to serve God. Job is mercenary; Job doth not seek the glory of God, but he seeks his own advantage.Thus in brief you see the sense, I shall give you some observations from it.
1. It is an argument of a most malignant spirit, when a man's actions are fair, then to accuse his intentions. The devil hath nothing to say against the actions of Job, but goes down into his heart and accuseth his intentions. Malice misinterprets the fairest actions, but love puts the fairest interpretation it can upon foul actions.
2. That it is an argument of a base and an unworthy spirit to serve God for ends. Had this been true of Job in Satan's sense, it had indeed blemished all that he had done. Those that come unto God upon such terms, they are not holy, but crafty. As sin is punishment enough unto itself; though there were no other punishment: so to do good is reward enough unto itself. But here a question will arise, May we not have respect to our own good, or unto the benefit we shall receive from God? Must we serve God for nought in that strict sense, or else will God account nothing of all our services?I shall clear that in five brief conclusions.
1. The first is this, There is no man doth, or possibly can serve God for nought. God hath by benefits already bestowed, and by benefits promised, outvied and outbid all the endeavours of the creature. If a man had a thousand pair of hands, a thousand tongues, and a thousand heads, and should set them all on work for God, he were never able to answer the obligations which God hath already put upon him. Therefore this is a truth, that no man can in a strict sense serve God for nought. God is not beholden to any creature for any work or service that is done unto Him.
2. Again, this is further to be considered. The more outward blessings anyone doth receive, the more he ought to serve God, and the more service God looks for at his hands.
3. In the third place, it is lawful to have some respect to benefits both received and promised by way of motive and encouragement to stir us up and quicken us, either in doing or in suffering for God (Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 12:2).
4. Then reference unto benefit is sinful, when we make it either the sole and only cause, or the chief cause of our obedience. This makes anything we do smell so of ourselves that God abides it not.
5. Lastly, we may look upon them as fruits and consequences of holiness, yea, as encouragements unto holiness, but not as causes of our holiness; or we may eye these as media, through which to see the bounty and goodness of God, not as objects on which to fix and terminate our desires.
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