“The Virtuous Man, Part 3”Categories: Sermons
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy to preach the word in season and out of season. As every preacher knows, this can be a difficult act to follow. It’s one thing to tell people what they’re eager to hear; it’s quite another to tell them what you know they don’t want to hear! However, a faithful gospel preacher cannot be deterred by circumstances from preaching the word.
In Job 31, Job wants us to understand that being a man of God is the same way. Sometimes, being righteous is in season. It’s what all your friends want you to do. It’s what you want to do. It’s easy. Sometimes, though, righteousness is out of season. We don’t have people encouraging us. Maybe we’re entirely alone. Even then, though, the right thing to do is still the right thing. Let’s see how this works out in the final portion of our study of the virtuous man.
First, being a virtuous man means having COMPASSION. In this, let’s turn our attention to Job 31:29-30. Really, there are two issues here. The first is in v. 30—it’s the problem of actively cursing your enemy before God. The second is in v. 29. Even if you haven’t cursed the one who hates you, are you happy when bad things happen to him?
As Christians, we generally don’t have much trouble with the first of these. We know that “Pray for those who persecute you,” doesn’t mean praying for God to strike them down! About that second one, though, let’s be honest. Let’s say that somebody has been dumping bucketloads of grief on you, and then their life gets sunk. Isn’t there some part inside each one of us that smirks a little bit and says, “Boy, he sure had that coming”?
Job wants us to understand that that part isn’t godly. We shouldn’t take pleasure in anyone’s suffering, even the suffering of those who quite frankly deserve it. Sure, if something bad happened to us, folks like that would be laughing it up, but we have a higher calling than that. It’s easy to be like the world. It’s hard to be like Jesus.
This must be our spirit even when we’re pretty sure that we’re witnessing divine judgment for sin. God certainly will destroy the wicked, but He has told us that He takes no pleasure in it. Even as we acknowledge that the judgments of the Lord are right, we must mourn their necessity. Otherwise, we’re no better than the people who hate us.
Second, the virtuous man shows MERCY. Let’s continue in Job 31:31-32. We’ve seen similar statements to this in Job 31 already, but this text makes it clear how universal the mercy of the man of God is. We’ve got a neat picture of this in v. 31. It’s like Job’s servants are standing around gossiping about him, and they’re saying to each other, “Man! Is there anybody this guy won’t help???”
After this, the text singles out two particular recipients of the man of God’s mercy. The second is the traveler, people who are just passing through. The righteous man will be compassionate to people like that and offer them the opportunity to stay in his home.
The first, though, is the sojourner. Other translations call this character the stranger, the alien, or the foreigner. We might call him the immigrant. This is somebody who is from another country who has been driven by economic need to relocate to a foreign land and try to provide for himself there. In the early part of the book of Ruth, Naomi and her family are sojourners.
The man of God offers a place to sojourners too, and he does that for the same reason we’ve seen all along. God loves all weak, vulnerable people, the no-counters that the world despises, and that applies to the immigrant too. More than anyone else, children of the heavenly Father ought to welcome and help the foreigner. After all, our citizenship isn’t from around here either.
Third, the virtuous man is a man of INTEGRITY. Our reading continues in Job 31:33-37. Probably all of us have heard the saying that character is what we do when no one is watching, and that’s the point that Job is making. There are all too many people out there who don’t really want to do right, but they do right because they’re afraid of the disapproval of others. As a result, they either sin when no one is watching or simply conceal their evil desires in their hearts.
Today, of course, opportunities for secret sin are legion. Many of us live lives in which the various pieces are disconnected from each other. We can be churchy at church and worldly in the world and hope to get away with it because our churchy friends don’t know our worldly friends. Additionally, all of us have plenty of opportunities to sin when no one else is around. The Internet certainly offers us enough porn to destroy our souls a hundred times over, but it also gives us the opportunity to log onto a message board with an anonymous screen name and spew all sorts of anger and hatred and meanness. Online, you can be the real you and get away with it!
Except, of course, that no one actually does get away with it. Job expresses his willingness to stand before the Almighty, but he feels that way only because he knows that his secret life and even his heart are righteous. If ours aren’t, we need to get to work on that while we still have the chance.
Finally, the life of the virtuous man reveals RIGHTEOUSNESS. Let’s conclude our reading with Job 31:38-40. I have to admit that I had some trouble with this one. What on earth does agriculture have to do with godliness? And why does Job put his spiel about agriculture in such an important place? This is, after all, the end of Job’s last speech in the whole book.
When I thought about it, though, I realized that agriculture was a stand-in for the way that Job lived his entire life. Thousands of years ago, everybody was a farmer, and if their farming wasn’t going well, their lives weren’t going well. Somebody who is righteous in his dealings with the land is righteous in his whole life.
On the other hand, Job says, if he has been unjust, then may his land produce weeds instead of crops. Basically, he’s calling the curse of Adam back down on himself. From this, we have valuable lessons to learn about the nature of righteousness. We’ve been talking about its various aspects, but when you get right down to it, righteousness is of a piece. To be righteous, you have to be righteous in every area of your life.
So too for us. If we want to be men of God, we can’t have part of our life belong to God while allowing these enclaves of Satan to persist elsewhere. It all has to be His, and only if it does do we measure up to Job’s, and God’s, standard.