Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Job & Gift Theory

Gift theory seems to have a great deal of explanatory power. It makes explicit much of the unspoken assumptions and expectations we have when giving and receiving gifts.

It also accurately describes the confusion many people have in their dealings with God. They can't imagine that God's love, mercy and forgiveness could be real gifts. And they certainly don't understand that their worship and service are worthless unless they are offered as true gifts.

Wing-Chi Ki has applied this to the Old Testament book of Job. Her essay, Gift Theory and the book of Job, appeared in volume 67, number 4, of the journal Theological Studies. (You may be able to read the full article here.)

Here's my summary of her article:

  • God operates as a giver of true gifts.

  • He offers Job as an example of one who offers his love and worship as a free gift.

  • Satan takes a more cynical position. He claims that Job serves God out of self interest.

  • This is not only an attack on Job's devotion but also an attack on God's integrity.

  • God allows Satan to remove all the "benefits" Job receives by serving God (short of his health).

  • When Job remains devoted in the face of tragedy, Satan charges that Job's good health is benefit enough to render God's gifts little more than bribes.

  • Job loses even his health.

  • His friends show up to offer encouragement, but they cannot remain silent in the face of Job's stubbornness.

  • They argue (from three slightly different perspectives) that God's blessings are directly tied to a person's righteousness.

  • They try to convince Job to ask for forgiveness for whatever sins he must have committed.

  • Job refuses to submit to the "market economy" view of his relationship with God.

  • Job loves God for himself, but he is dismayed by the treatment he is receiving from God.

  • God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and silences his complaints.

  • He delineates many of the "hidden" gifts he has given to mankind.

  • He criticizes Job's friends and vindicates Job.

  • God then restores his "gift economy."

Wing-Chi Ki does a much better job of explaining her analysis. (But she also takes 27 pages to do it.)

So what do you think? Does this perspective seem more satisfying? More "true"?

Pastor Rod

"Helping you become the person God created you to be"

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