Take a Stand
Posted July 3, 2022
Responsive Reading: Job 35:1-12
Key Verse(s): Job 35:2
Background Scripture: Job 27:1-6; 32:1-10
Take a stand — The story of Job is one that I choose to believe is very well known; people know that he lost everything – his family, his wealth, and even his health. The “patience of Job” is well known, though I would suggest that his patience is typically misconstrued as being the quiet type of patience that tolerated everything without grumbling or complaining – that was not the case. Yes, Job endured, but he did not do so quietly.
Job and his three friends argued and it was not pretty. Standing by, listening to the discourse of Job and his three friends, was a young man named Elihu. Elihu, I would suggest, is a representation of many believers who stand by and watch two sides go at it in a battle of self-righteousness; a battle of who knows what is right and best.
As he stood by watching the two parties argue, Elihu, scripture tells us, grew a bit frustrated with both Job and his three friends (Job 32:2); he decided that he was going to take a stand. Elihu was frustrated with Job because Job, while arguing with his three friends, became very self-righteous and justified himself rather than God (Job 32:2). Elihu was frustrated with the three friends because in their piety and self-righteousness, they condemned Job rather than give him the help he sought (Job 32:3). Imagine that – condemning those in need of help.
The Self-Righteous Stance
As I prepared this week’s sermon, I thought about the recent rulings and judgments that we have seen happen in our society the past few weeks. There have been decisions made that have frightened and upset many people while a select group, believing they know what is right and best for others, cheer and celebrate. The ego, the pride, piety, and self-righteousness of it all is something that annoys and frustrates me greatly.
I often wonder why we just can’t choose to live in peace, minding our own business, but at the same time, find a means to be able to help uplift one another rather than tear each other down. Why is it that we work so hard to bring harm to one another rather than make peace with one another? Ego, pride, piety – self-righteousness – has been the demise of so many.
It was the self-righteousness of one group that led to the enslavement of another. It was the self-righteousness of one group, believing they knew what was best, that led to another group being told where they cannot eat, or drink from a water fountain, or even use the bathroom. Now, today, it is the self-righteousness of a few that dictate to others what they cannot do with their own body. A stand must be made and we must do so the right way.
Job’s self-righteousness revealed
Now, ego and pride – self-righteousness – are not words we typically associate with Job. After all, we are told in scripture that the Lord said Job was a blameless and upright man that feared Him (Job 1:8). Job stood as a pillar of what a good and faithful man was supposed to be in his community. I believe that Job being a representation of a good and faithful person was the main reason as to why Elihu was so frustrated with him.
Elihu watched as a good faithful man was brought down in his spirit by his so-called friends. Rather than speaking uplifting words to Job, they adamantly blamed Job for his suffering. As James said, the tongue is both powerful and very dangerous in that it can set fire the course of nature (Jas. 3:6). Job’s friends, in their piety and self-righteousness, thought they were better than him. By their tongue, they set fire to him and brought out the worst in him.
Job felt moved to take a stand and defend himself, his integrity, and his righteousness but he took a stand from a place of fiery anger and bitterness. One has to be careful in how they choose to take a stand; you see, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to go about taking a stand for oneself. For the child of God, we cannot take a stand from a place of wrath and bitterness because again, as James said, wrath and bitterness does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20).
Job told his friends that he was not inferior to them and had as much understanding as they did (Job 12:3). Nothing sounds terrible about that response, but I want you to notice that his response was a response to meet them on their level of piety and self-righteousness. You see, Job went down the slippery slope of piety and self-righteousness and became very self-righteous alongside them.
Slippery slope of self-righteousness
Job began to complain and make accusations against the Lord while at the same time saying he was justified of his accusations and complaints (Job 7:11; 10:2). Job accused the Lord of being against him and striking him with poisonous arrows (Job 6:4). Job was so far down this slope that he accused the Lord of taking away his justice and making his soul bitter (Job 27:1-2).
So, I believe we can understand Elihu’s frustration now! Job’s friends did nothing to help him and Job was speaking wildly out of grief, sorrow, and despair that his friends were adding to. The self-righteous person cannot truly help another unless there is something in it for them. Then, when they’re dictating and condemning others, they manage to bring the worst out of others.
When two come together and start to act out of self-righteousness against the other, they can never come together in understanding. Why? Because their righteousness won’t allow them to be humble, concede, and work together. The end result is two stuck in the mud fighting with no end in sight. Here’s where we are today in our society – stuck in the mud fighting against each other in a battle of self-righteousness with no end in sight.
This is the stance of the self-righteous – a stance that has led to the suffering of many. At some point, frustrations boil over and a stand will be taken. It is of the utmost importance that we as genuine believers take a stand and that we ensure ourselves we are doing so in true righteousness and not self absorbed righteousness.
The Stance of True Righteousness
Elihu is the example that we are going to look at following today. When Elihu finally spoke up, we will see that he approached Job and his friends from a place of humility and respect. Elihu, again, was a young man who, out of humility and respect, waited for Job and his friends to finish before he spoke (Job 32:7-8). So, right away, I would suggest to you that this young man was letting himself and his words be guided by the Lord and not by his own righteousness.
Guided by the pure words of God
In Psalm 12, David said that the words of the Lord are pure, like silver, tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times (Ps. 12:6). The words of the Lord are perfect and without fail. Those living by the words of the Lord are living by words that lead to holiness and true righteousness. Whereas those who abide by any other words are abiding by words that are imperfect and full of failure; this is why the self-righteous cannot be of true assistance – they abide by their own words.
This is why Job’s friends could not uplift him and, at that same time, is why Job could not find understanding himself; they believed themselves to be perfect according to their own words when in actuality, they were just as imperfect as anybody else. You see, this is the danger of the self-righteous – believing yourself to be perfect when in truth none of us are!
To think, or to believe, such shows how little the self-righteous thinks of the Lord. Through their words and their actions, the self-righteous one puts their righteousness over the Lord, who is perfect. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day are proof of this as they were so self-righteous that their righteousness blinded them to the righteousness of the Lord standing before them.
In their blindness to God’s righteousness, the religious leaders became bitter in their hearts towards Jesus, the righteousness standing before. Again, let us remember what James said about bitterness being in the hearts of man – it cannot produce righteousness. So James encouraged us to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath because this produces the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:19). Elihu, we should note, ticked off every box on that checklist when dealing with the two self-righteous parties.
Pointing out the truth
Being guided by the pure words of God, the believer should offer rebuke to the self-righteous that does not come from a place of piety, bitterness, or wrath, but from a place of humility. To get through to Job, yes, Elihu was frustrated, but he moved out of that frustration in truth and in humility.
Elihu posed a question to Job that we see in my key verse for today. Elihu asked this blameless and upright man, “Do you think this is right? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’?” This is a very pointed question that Elihu had asked of Job. This, I believe, is a pointed question for all people – believers and non-believers – and especially all of those that move out of their own self-righteousness.
Job believed he was too righteous to suffer and go through what it was that he was going through. By his accusations, Job even believed he could tell the Lord what is just and what is unjust. Who are we to question the Lord or tell Him what is just or unjust? Who are we to tell the Lord what is right and what is wrong? Who are we to tell God what to do and what not to do – when to move and when not to move according to His will?
We do this every time we get out ahead of God and start taking things into our own hands by judging, condemning, and dictating to others out of our self-righteousness – God has not commanded us to do this! No, God has commanded us to help and to love one another, not condemn, dictate, or oppress each other! Think about this: if we have the audacity to think that we can tell God what to do, what would stop us from telling others what to do? This is what we deal with when it comes to the self-righteous heart.
Elihu would go on to ask Job about what could he possibly do for the Lord (Job 35:6-7)? These questions point out a serious truth to us. That truth being that we are not God; we are not righteous by anything we do ourselves. Therefore, because we are not righteous by our own might, we do not have some great understanding nor the authority to look on others and dictate to them what is right and what is wrong by our own self-righteousness.
The only one who can do such a thing is the Lord who rules over all things, and yet, He even leaves mankind with a choice to either obey Him or not. With that in mind, what you and I can do is take a stand in the Lord’s righteousness! We do this by living according to his words and then sharing His words in a manner that gives others the choice to live by them or not.
Setting the example
The writer of Hebrews encouraged us to pursue peace and holiness with all people (Heb. 12:14). In doing this, the writer of Hebrews said to us that we should look carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Heb. 12:15).”
Elihu took a stand because he saw the bitterness coming out of Job and he needed to stop a righteous man from becoming a man that lives by bitterness. Job, being a pillar in his community, would have great influence on those around him through his words and actions. Elihu pointed this out to Job when he said to him, “Your wickedness affects a man such as you, and your righteousness a son of man (Job 35:8).”
In essence, Elihu wanted Job to understand that he would set an example to follow and also influence others to do as he does. Should others follow his lead of wickedness, Elihu pointed out that pain and suffering would await them (Job 35:9). I look around at the examples being set today – examples of anger and hatred on others – and it’s saddening.
It is saddening because generation after generation only knows how to hurt one another rather than love and help each other due to the stance of self-righteousness. All we have been left with is pain and suffering and all it seems we do is continue to push pain and suffering for generation unto generation. And it seems that things aren’t getting any better though we like to dream and imagine that it will in the future. How can things get any better if we continue to allow self-righteousness to have its way?
Take a Stand
A stand against self-righteousness must be made. The stance of one who takes a stand in the righteousness of the Lord – true righteousness – is one that will open hearts rather than shut them off. As Solomon said in the book of Proverbs, “the mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins (Prov. 10:11-12).”
So, if we are honest with ourselves today, a lot of the mess that we see being kicked up in our society today is being led by people who would claim to be a child of God. I would suggest to you today that the stance against self-righteousness must begin first within ourselves and then to those that are closest to us; we must ensure that we and those closest to us are not moving out of self-righteousness and bitterness.
A terrible truth that we must face today is that many of us can be like Job at times and have moments where we believe our righteousness is more than God’s righteousness and anybody else. Hopefully in such days we have an Elihu that will take a stand of righteousness and point this sin out to us. Hopefully, in such a day when those closest to you are acting out of self-righteousness, you can take a stand and point this out to them rather than ignore it.
Trusting in the Lord
Another terrible truth we must face when it comes to self-righteousness is that self-righteous actions show a lack of trust in the Lord. Do you not trust in the Lord? Do you not trust in how the Lord is moving to the point that you feel you have to move for Him?
Do you not trust in how the Lord is moving to the point that you believe you know what is best for you and others? It certainly feels like many people, especially those claiming to love and trust in Him, are moving in a manner that suggests they do not trust in Him.
We truly must become more trusting of the Lord; trust that all things are in His control and that His will shall be done. In order for us to truly trust the Lord, we must, again, first humble ourselves and then be obedient to His words. This was the lesson that Job needed to learn in his day of grief, sorrow, and self-righteousness. Of course, in the end, Job was greatly blessed and received more than what he once had.
I believe today that all of us should we humble ourselves and let go of self-righteousness and be more obedient to the Lord’s words, not only will we be wonderfully blessed but our society will be blessed as well. Anger and hatred will begin to cease and more love and peace can enter into picture. We will finally be able to treat each other better! Doing otherwise will lead to no progress, and just more hurt and suffering. Let us take a stand and let go of self-righteousness.