Summary: Victimhood is a choice, but not the right choice.
Job: Victim or Victor?
When I was 12 years old I tried out for my first basketball team. It was my sixth grade year, and I was struggling to make new friends. Two elementary schools fed into the middle school, and my sixth grade class had over 250 students. Of those 250 students, only 20 came from my school. It was a tough adjustment for me, and making the basketball team was at the time the answer to all my problems. I came to all of the after school team meetings, I attended all of the tryouts, I worked as hard as my 12 year old frame would allow, and after the first cut was made, my name was still on the list. I was ecstatic, I still had a chance. There were 17 of us left, and coach was only planning on having 15 on the team. It was the last tryout and I was willing to do anything to make the team. I laced up my shoes, and hit the court. After tryouts, I was exhausted. I left everything I had on the court. But, as the team was announced by the coach, my name was not on the list. I had been cut. I fought back all of my tears and frustration until my dad that night asked me if I made the team. I fell into his chest as I cried saying no, I got cut. This was the end of my world as a sixth grade boy who saw making the team as the end of my struggles—the solution to my need to fit in. I did not know what to do or how to act—I was devastated. My dad, who more oft then not knew the right thing to say, simply said, “There is always next year.”
When your 12 years old, every problem seems like the end of the world, but then you grow older and deal with adult issues like marriage and parenting, money, divorce, faith, and the list goes on. You are also exposed to stories like that of Job:
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
JOB 1:16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
JOB 1:17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
JOB 1:18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
JOB 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.
Hearing a story like Job’s puts suffering into perspective. Here is a man the Bible says lost everything. He had unparalleled wealth, a strong faith in God, a large family, friends, and was described by God himself as “blameless and upright. A man who fears God and shuns evil.” However, God decided to let Satan put Job’s faith to the test. So the evil one stripped him of everything less his life, and left Job with a choice: curse God and die or praise God and acknowledge that in all things God is in control. In short Job could choose victimhood or victory.
But, for us to understand Job’s plight, and how this decision is relative to us today, we must look at the current social definition of victimhood and how it affects people today. Any Monty Python fans in the church this morning? In their 1979 movie the Life of Brian—a spoof on Christian movies in general—there is a scene that is amazingly relevant to our discussion this morning. A group of Lepers are seated at the city gates begging for change. One of the gentlemen stands out quite a bit as a different sort of Leper, for it looks as though he is not suffering at all. “Alms for an ex-leper,” he says to a passerby. “Did you say ex-leper?” “Why yes sir, I did.” “What happened to you.” “I was cured.” “Cured, by who.” “Jesus, sir.” The man goes on to explain to the gentleman how one day he was hobblin’ along minding his own business, when poof Jesus says you’re cured. 16 years a leper and then your cured with no warning or nothing. Before I know it I am cured with no livelihood. The man’s response is why don’t you ask Jesus to turn you back. He says he thought of asking Jesus for a limp or a lame leg in the middle of the week just so he can have something to work with. The illustration is priceless. The ex-leper suffers from vicitimhood—it becomes not only his livelihood but also his identity.