Summary: Like Job’s friend Zophar, we eagerly find faults with others, thinking that pointing out their mistakes is all that is needed, and failing to build a relationship first. Contrast with Christ, who "became sin" for us.
We are studying the very human issue of faultfinding during this Lenten season. We are using the story of Job and his friends, if you call them that, as they tried to console him, no, really, instruct him in his misery. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three miserable comforters, Job said, because they stood around and looked at Job in all his misery, and, instead of caring for him and feeling his pain, they bombarded him with theological lectures. Instead of weeping with him and putting an arm around his emaciated shoulders, instead of simply sitting and listening to the outpourings of his heart, they supposed that they could fix him. They thought that they could point out his faults and let him take care of his issues, and that would be that. They were miserable comforters, all three of them, and the one we are visiting with today, Zophar, is the most incompetent of them all. Eliphaz, the first friend, had trotted out the old spiritual bromides, and Job rejected those quickly. Bildad, the traditionalist, had suggested that Job go back to old ways, old ideas, old pieties, and find an answer in the past, but Job passed that off too. Today Zophar, in a torrent of insensitivity, arrogance, and coldly callous calculating cutting carping, will tell Job, in the cruelest cut of all, “Just say no.”
Zophar the rigid, Zophar the cold and the callous, Zophar the absolutely cocksure. To Job and Job’s pain Zophar has one rule and one rule only. “Just say no.” “Just say no.” Listen to these two have at each other:
Job 11:13-18, 12:2-3, 6, 9-10, 13-14, 13:1-6; 20:2-5, 21:2-3, 29, 30, 34
Sometimes we work so hard at being right that we end up wrong. Sometimes we are so persuaded that we are correct that everything we try to do is undone and bent out of shape. It’s possible to be so right, so correct, that nobody can stand us. It’s possible to be so insufferably right, that everything we think we are trying to do becomes ineffective. I had a friend like that, of whom it was said that he was right in all the wrong ways! Right in all the wrong, unloving, cold, harsh, ineffective ways.
Sometimes we work so hard at being right that we end up wrong.
I remember a seminary professor who was like that. No matter what he did or what he said, there was always a hard edge to it. There was a bite, an acid tongue, a coldness about him that was frightening. I started to take his class in pastoral care and counseling. But after only three or four weeks, during which I felt sliced up and cut down six ways to Sunday, I dropped out. I quit. I really did not want to be in a class where at least once a week I was going to be paraded in front of the other students as a poor excuse for a preacher and an inexcusably sorry counselor. Some of the other students seemed to thrive on that, but not me. This professor’s style of teaching was to get you to report verbatim some visit or some counseling contact you had had, and then to tear it up and spit it out and pepper it with insults. He was absolutely merciless! Faultfinding of that sort was not what I came to hear. And so I decided I wanted out of that class. I needed out of that class. I was going to drop that course.
There was only one problem. You had to get the professor’s permission to drop a course. You had to visit him in his office, explain your reasons, and get his signature on the drop card. I was not looking forward to that. I knocked on his door and presented my drop card; just as I expected, those squinting eyes looked through me and that snarling mouth said, “Why? You have some reason for dropping MY course?”
Now it was true that I was taking a lot of hours and it was true that I was working at a job and doing several other things, so that’s what I told him. I told him I just needed to lighten my load. But, you know, some people are like dogs; they can smell fear. They just know it’s there, and they attack. And so he turned to me, with the coldest eyes you can imagine, with a semi-sneer on his face, and said, “I see, Mr. Smith. So you want to drop MY course. Why not drop somebody else’s course? What’s wrong with this course? What’s wrong with MY course? Is there anything else you want to tell me?!”
I know seminary students are not supposed to lie, and I didn’t exactly lie. I answered with complete truth his question, “is there anything else you want to tell me?”! There truly was nothing else I wanted to tell him! I didn’t want to tell him what was really on my mind and what I thought of his course. Why not? Because he was always so insufferably correct that he made his students feel lower than snakes and dirtier than dirt. He may have been right in everything he said, but all I felt from him was humiliation, rejection, and contempt. I could not, I would not, learn under those circumstances.