Misguided Advice


Job 11:13-15

“If you direct your heart rightly,
you will stretch out your hands toward him.
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and do not let wickedness reside in your tents.
Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure, and will not fear.


Job’s friend, Zophar tries to give him advice. Zophar believes that Job is being punished for something that he has done wrong and is now suggesting a solution. I’m afraid that many people would find this advice plausible, and may even have been given this kind of suggestion. The problem is that the central focus of salvation becomes Job. There is no savior here, but only a human being who is supposed to get things right on their own power. 

Zophar tells Job to get his heart right, because obviously it was wrong if bad things happened to him. However, that’s simply not the case. Job had been a good and righteous man, he hadn’t done anything to deserve what had happened to him. 

The friend tells Job to put anything sinful far away from him and basically outlines a works type of faith. If you do all the right things, then you, personally, can lift up your face without a blemish. You do all the right things, then you will be secure and will not fear. 

This was misguided advice because it completely misunderstood Job’s circumstances. It also assumed that Job was entirely responsible for his sufferings and that he was the one who could change everything. 


If we read that passage out of context we just may catch ourselves in agreement with what Zophar is saying. 

Have we ever said these kinds of things to others? 

  1. “If only your heart had been right, these things would not have happened to you.” 

  1. “Stretch out your hand toward God, and put all your sins behind you.”

  1. “Don’t let there be any wickedness in your life.”

  1. “Only when you get your act together can God then forgive you.”

My grandmother heard the first sentence when she gave birth to a little girl with Down’s syndrome. Many relatives came to visit and told her that she must have done something wrong in life or she would not have this baby. We wouldn’t say that to someone today, but far too often we find ourselves blaming something difficult on the individual who is suffering. 

The second through fourth sentences reflect a lack of understanding regarding grace. This puts all the power of salvation into the hands of the sinner, and that’s a powerless feeling. It also means that we put ourselves in the place of God. Only Christ reaches out to us and through his death on the cross, cleanses us from the sins. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can wickedness be removed from your life. Only through the gracious work of God can we experience the transformational work of the Holy Spirit. Just like the prodigal son, we are invited to come home, just as we are, and there be welcomed in a warm embrace. 

Zophar’s advice put Job at the center of his own universe and the power of salvation in his own hands. We are not God and there aren’t enough good works for us to do to be saved. May we never be tempted to give this kind of misguided advice. Instead, may we become channels of God’s prevenient grace, continually pointing people in the direction of Christ. 


Lord, thank you for your gracious love that we cannot earn, nor do we deserve. Draw me ever closer to you this day, and every day. Amen. 


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