It’s rather shocking how uncompassionate Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – Job’s friends – are toward Job in his time of suffering.
Bildad tells Job, "Your kids died because they sinned against God, end of story (8:4)."
Zophar tells Job, “What you’re experiencing is actually far less than your sin against God deserves (11:6); stop clinging to your sin (11:14)!”
As some have said, With friends like Job’s, who needs enemies!
As an aside, as Old Testament saints I fully expect to meet Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in heaven in the same way I expect to meet Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Samuel, and the rest of the prophets. The unsympathetic expressions toward Job come from the mouths of redeemed men.
It’s not true to say that they don’t care at all about Job’s suffering. They cared enough to make the trip from their homes to come to his aid (2:11-13). But there’s something sorely lacking. In their counsel there is nothing that offers Job any hope. In fact, Job hears in their words nothing more than mocking of his situation (13:4).
Imagining Job sitting on the garbage pile, it seems obvious to us that Job needs the gentle care of his friends. But somehow his friends miss his need to have someone weep with him in his weeping.
I do not think it is an overstatement to say all people agree that a local church, followers of Jesus Christ, recipients of God’s grace, should be caring people. It is a misnomer in the minds of everyone to claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ but deny the expression of care for others modeled for us by our Lord in His ministry and His cross sacrifice. “You’re a Christian; you’re supposed to care for people” is how the thinking goes. It is why “Care” is one of our 4 C’s that we believe mark the lifestyle of Christian disciples. We believe our church should be the frontline for physical and spiritual care for all in our church. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t. We want to get better at providing care.
Here are a few signs someone needs Christian care.
Attendance at worship, small group meetings, student group, or church functions changes.
When individuals or families change the frequency with which they meet with others within the church, something is happening. We cannot assume all is well when other believers are not at the gatherings of the church. All too quickly one missed worship service becomes two, then five or six.
Withdrawal from family or friends.
Hurting people are afraid to be hurt again, so they remove themselves from the people they believe might hurt them again. These broken people need spiritual care.
Infrequent laughter or smiles.
Proverbs 15:13; 15:15; 17:22 and Isaiah 24:7 convey laughter and smiles come from happy souls. When these are missing from someone, the absence indicates a need for care.
Outbursts of anger, especially over matters that seem trite.
Bad drivers, a spilled glass of juice, the newspaper in the shrubs instead of on the porch, a game not recorded for later viewing, and chasing the dog who got out through an open door are not matters that should prompt an emotional outburst that damages relationships.
Communication contains critical or wearisome comments about a spouse, a child, a parent, a teacher, a supervisor, or a pastor.
The gospel makes our speech different. When our speech sounds eerily reminiscent of our unsaved lives, we declare our need for spiritual care.
Living in and/or talking about past negative experiences.
Because we live in a sin-filled world and are surrounded by sinners, we all are the victims of negative past experiences. When those experiences frame our worldview, dominate our thinking, and justify our behaviors, we need spiritual care.
My musing is getting too long. So here are the rest I considered without comment.
Admission or discovery of a sinful habit or a serious moral failure.
Death of a family member or friend, serious illness with a child, sibling, parent, spouse or self.
Conflict with children or other close family members.
Significant change in work responsibilities or a career change.
Unusual weight gain or loss.
Signs of fatigue or sleeplessness.
Whose responsibility is it to care for the people in the local church? In a way the responsibility belongs to everyone, but “When everybody is responsible to care, nobody is responsible.” It’s like what one of our ladies said to me. “My boss wonders why nobody shovels the entrance when it snows. I told my boss, ‘Nobody shovels because it’s everybody’s responsibility to shovel. If you want someone to shovel, give him the job.’”
It is why we have a mechanism like small groups to provide a way for people to receive and give spiritual care. You know you have a unique responsibility to the people in your small group to care for them, and you know that in your small group there is a group of people to whom you can turn for care. Other churches may use different mechanisms to identify care responsibilities. Whatever your mechanism, I hope you will embrace the responsibility to care. This is a critical function of the church.
Finally, if you are in need of spiritual care and no one knows, I’d like to help. Please contact me and let’s talk.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.
Pastor for Preaching & Vision