Scripture is filled with stories of men of loyalty — those who were loyal to God first of all and those who were loyal to one another as friends. In the previous Catholic Man Channel article by Fr. Philip Merdinger, we saw two Scriptural examples of what it means to be men of loyalty in the lives of Caleb and Eleazar. In the Book of Job, we see another striking example of a man of loyalty in Job; but we also see a striking example of men of disloyalty, namely, Job's so-called friends.
Job was a faithful follower of God who took seriously the commands to love God and his neighbor (Job 1:8). When Satan heard of Job's faithfulness, he tried to convince God that Job was loyal and generous because everything was going well for him: "Haven't you put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has? … But stretch out your hand [against him], and he will curse you to your face" (1:10,11). God allowed Satan to put him to the test. Job lost his wealth, his health, his reputation, his house, and even his children. And yet, Scripture speaks of this man of loyalty in this way: "In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (1:22). Even when his wife told him to "Curse God and die" (2:9), he would not. In fact, "Through all this job did nothing sinful" (2:10).
When Job's best friends heard about his misfortune, they initially came to console him. But it seems that they weren't expecting anything as extreme as what awaited them. Seeing Job's wretched condition, all they could do was sit with him in stunned silence for an entire week as they tried to make sense of Job's desperate situation.
Finally, Job broke the silence and began to lament: Why do things like this happen? Why are they happening to me? Here was a chance for Job's friends to be courageous and loyal and stand by Job. However, the only answer his friends could suggest — and with increasing vehemence — was that God must be punishing him for some secret sin he was hiding. As their debate with Job continued, what had begun as sympathy began to reflect the subtle whispers of the devil, rather than the encouragement of loyal friends.
Job's friends imagined God as a stern judge who only rewards and punishes people on the basis of their behavior. They couldn't see that a spiritual battle was being waged in their midst or that God might have been working in Job's life to bring him to an even deeper trust, surrender, and, yes, loyalty. Instead, they yielded to negative judgments and criticisms, undermining their friendship with him in the process. In the end, not only was Satan accusing Job, he had succeeded in convincing Job's friends to accuse him as well!
The story ends with God vindicating Job and asking him to pray for his friends. It must not have been easy for Job to forgive his friends, but he knew he had to do it out of loyalty to God for his mercy, and as a loyal friend, in spite of their harsh words and accusations. Perhaps he also knew that this might help them to see more clearly the spiritual dimension to what had happened to him — and to life in general. Whatever the case, Job's willingness to intercede for them shows a loyalty to God, and a loyalty that his friends did not deserve. Job was indeed a man of loyalty.
"Heavenly Father, we ask for the grace to be faithful and loyal to you, and to be faithful and loyal friends."
Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing me to adapt material from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Our view of our Heavenly Father can affect our loyalty (and faithfulness) to him. It also affects our loyalty to others and how we treat them. In what ways can viewing God the Father as a stern and harsh judge affect our relationship with him? In what way does it affect how we see and judge other people and our loyalty to them?
2. What is your reaction to the following statement? "Our Heavenly Father is the kindest, nicest, most gentle and loving person there is. He loves you and me so much that he sent his beloved Son to die on the cross for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world." In what ways have you experienced the truth of this in your own life? Why does this view of God lead to a greater loyalty to him, than viewing him as a stern and harsh judge?
3. The story of Job and his friends should lead us to examine where we stand with our faithfulness and loyalty to God, and our friendships and loyalty to other men. Do we recognize the ways the Spirit is empowering us to be loyal disciples of Christ and blessing our friendships? How are we doing with our wives?
4. In what ways does the devil try to undermine our relationships with God and others by sowing seeds of mistrust, suspicion, or resentment?
5. We all know how difficult it can be to establish and maintain close loyal friendships, especially when one or the other of us experiences times of trial. We also know how rewarding it is to have a friendship that can stand the test of time and bring glory to God by reflecting his love to others. How important do you think loyalty is to being a godly man?
6. What blessings and challenges have you experienced in your friendship and brotherhood with other men?