IF’ is only a two letter word but sometimes it is very significant. In Job today, Job’s three friends give up on their attempts to reason that Job must be a secret sinner. Their argument that he must be so because of all the bad things that happened to him collapses, as they can show no evidence. In any case, the fact that the wicked so often prosper destroys their reasoning.

In chapter 31, in his final words to them, Job uses the word ‘IF’ no less than 18 times, saying, ‘If I have done this or that then I would be deserving of God’s judgements’, i.e. punishment. There is food for thought here! “If I have walked with falsehood” (verse 5) “been enticed toward a woman” (verse 9) “made gold my trust” (verse 24) “rejoiced because of my wealth” (verse 25) worshipped the sun and moon (verses 26-28) “concealed my transgressions” (verse 33) not made fair and proper use of the produce of my lands (verses 38,39). In these efforts to justify himself, Job makes some other statements that add up to a challenge to us as to our responsibilities (in the sight of God) toward others. He says, “If I withheld anything that the poor desired, or caused the eye of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone and the fatherless have not eaten of it” (verses 16,17) “If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing” (verse 19) and not looked after the traveller …” (verses 31,32).

In developed countries Governments provide for much of this, but there are cracks in the system that need watching. In other countries there are many more cracks. Another point is in verse 29 “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him”. Job recognized God would judge him for his failures to act and for having wrong attitudes; it was not just a matter of avoiding doing bad things.

For his godly attitude in all these things and, especially, for speaking of God that which is right (42:7), Job is, in the end, blessed. We have not been tested like Job, but the question we must ask ourselves is – can we echo the words of Job? Let us each reflect on the way we have lived and are living today.