The Story of Job: Gratuitous Evil, or “Bad Grace”

Fast forward: Job is the greatest man of the East.  God boasts.  Satan accuses.  God allows.  Job loses.  First, his riches and his children.  Then, his health.  Heart-stricken perhaps, his wife tells him, “Curse God and die.”  But Job refuses.

Already the life of Job tells us two things:  First, there is pain in this world so intense it makes death look desirable: “Why is light given to him who is in misery,…who long for death, but it comes not?” (Job 3:20).  Second, it dishonors God to take matters into one’s own hands.  Job has the option to commit suicide, but he refuses.  He tells his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this, the Bible says, Job did not sin with his lips (2:10).

Three friends come to comfort Job, but instead of comforting him, they aggravate him.  They insist, Surely Job must have done something wrong.  Now we know, as readers, this assumption is not right.  God had boasted about Job to Satan.  God was proud of Job.  The pain came because Satan bet that when Job lost everything, he would curse God.  And he did not.

But why is Job suffering?  God chose freely to allow this.  Satan did not force God to do anything.  Indeed, it is impossible to force God (Job 41:11).  One solution might be to say, “Well, we are all sinners; therefore, we should expect pain.”  But this does not explain why one sinner’s life is relatively calm, but the next sinner’s life is a living hell.  And as a living hell, it will feel like punishment.  Looking up, he will say, “What did I do to deserve this?”

Interestingly, God tells Satan, “You incited me against him to destroy him without reason” (2:3).  Literally, without cause or freely.  There was no cause within Job at all.  The Hebrew word here is a form of the word “grace”, signifying something freely given.  Just as there is a good grace, when God freely does good to me and I do not deserve it, so there is a bad grace, when God freely allows harm to come and I do not deserve it.  “Who sinned?” asked the disciples of the man born blind, “This man or his parents?” and Jesus responded, Neither.  This too is part of His sovereignty in our lives.

As Christians, we have gladly accepted His good grace.  We rejoice that God is so sovereignly free that when we were helpless, when we were failures, when we were rebels, God freely sent His Son to die for us (Romans 5:6, 8, 10).  But having accepted good grace, shall we now refuse bad grace?  Shall we tell Him, “You cannot do anything bad to me unless it is somehow connected to my works”?  Did we not abandon that principle at our salvation?

As Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10).  Truly, these are words to ponder.


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