“The Virtuous Man, Part 2”Categories: Sermons
We live in a society that is increasingly defined by an absence of male leadership. This is evident first of all in the family. Today, only 58 percent of American children live with both birth parents, and the vast majority of the time, if a parent is gone, it’s Dad. As our nation continues to decline, this number will only rise.
Leadership problems are prominent within the church too. Based on an informal, decades-long survey, Steve Wolfgang estimates that only a quarter to a third of churches of Christ have elders. The most common reason for a man to be unqualified to serve is his unfaithful children.
I’m not here to assign blame for any of these things, but I am here to say that men of God need to do better. If we allow our corrosive culture to corrode those who should be leading the church, the Restoration movement surely will end in failure. With this in mind, let’s take another look this evening at Job 31 and God’s model of the virtuous man.
The first attribute that Job examines in this part of the context is JUSTICE. Look at Job 31:13-15. This passage, is about the way that a man handles being in authority. You’re the master. You’re the boss. You’re the man. However, one of your servants comes to you with a complaint. They have no power. They can’t make you do anything. All they can do is appeal to your sense of fairness. A good man will listen to them and deal justly with them. A bad man will dismiss them because he has the power to do so.
The applications of this passage are legion. First, it applies to those who are business owners or even managers. How do you treat those who are under you? Are you fair with them? Are you understanding? Or, instead, do you use your power to bully them and be a jerk because you can and nobody’s going to call you out on it? If the latter, Job wants us to remember that no matter who we are, God still is over us, and if we are unfair to others, we will have to give an account.
The same can be said for husbands and fathers. Men, God made us the head of the family, but our model for headship isn’t Louis XIV. It’s Jesus. We’re not called to stomp all over our wives and children. We’re called to serve them and consistently seek their good. If we refuse to hear their concerns and be persuaded when it’s appropriate, we aren’t the leaders God has called us to be.
Similarly, Job makes the point that God has called us to GENEROSITY. Consider his words in Job 31:16-20. Notice that in this text, all the sins that Job cites are sins of omission. They are all times when a man of God has the opportunity to help and chooses not to. There is a widow he could feed, and he allows her to go hungry. There is an orphan he could clothe, and he allows him to be cold instead. Men, if all we do is stand by and allow the poor to suffer without any help from us, we are not being godly!
Of course, we also should use wisdom as we offer help. If you toss twenty bucks to the guy who is sitting on the sidewalk outside the liquor store begging for money, you’re not helping anybody! At the same time, though, we must not allow wisdom to lead us into hardheartedness. If all we ever do is make excuses about why we are not being generous, at some point, we have to admit that we don’t actually want to be generous.
Now, I must say that in the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen that this is a generous, caring congregation, and all of you who are involved in that, I applaud you! Keep doing that, and even if you get burned, don’t let that discourage you from doing good in future.
Third, Job lauds the merits of FORBEARANCE. Let’s keep going in Job 31:21-23. This is another image that takes some unpacking. Back in the day, some of the poorest, most vulnerable people were the fatherless—orphans. They didn’t have anybody to protect them or stand up for them. By contrast, the gate is where the elders of the city sat to pass judgment on local business. What Job is saying, then, is that wicked men are emboldened by their powerful friends to oppress the poor. If you take the lands of the fatherless away from him and split them with your buddy, who’s going to object?
Job’s answer is that God will. If you raise your hand against the fatherless, God’s going to rip your arm off. The same principle applies today. God loves the poor. He loves the widows. He loves the fatherless. Indeed, everyone who is weak and vulnerable and despised by society, He loves, and He will surely punish those who harm and exploit them.
We must take care that we are not involved in the oppression of people like this ourselves. I don’t think that God is pleased with those who operate title-loan and check-cashing businesses, nor with those who take advantage of political connections to profit at the poor’s expense. If we are merciless, God will be merciless toward us.
Finally, we see Job endorsing GODLINESS. Let’s wrap up our reading for the hour in Job 31:24-28. This is another text where we see Job making connections that we don’t expect to see until the New Testament. We see idolatry all the way through the Old Testament, but it’s not until Colossians 3 that Paul says straight-out that covetousness and greed are another form of idolatry.
However, notice the structure of the passage here. Here, Job talks both about trusting in gold and worshiping false gods, but he does so in the same context. Clearly, he regards those things as related, and he thinks that both are a betrayal of God.
Today, we don’t have too much to do with idols. The only idol I know of in town is that one in the donut shop in Sunnyside. I think it’s a statue of Lakshmi, but I haven’t seen anyone worshiping it.
Covetousness is another matter. There are an awful, awful lot of people around here who worship money, even if they go to church on Sunday morning. Sometimes, their love of money is how they determine where they’re going to go to church! The point is that it’s easy to think that money isn’t the most important thing in our lives and yet be totally deceived. A quick rule of thumb is that if we find ourselves thinking more about money than we do about God, we’re on the wrong side of this one. We need to trust in Him to protect us, not money.