“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21 NASB

Naked I shall return there – Do we truly understand Job’s response to calamity? Are we prepared to have our lives stripped to the bone simply because God is sovereign? Have we converted Job’s declaration into theological jargon rather than emotional devastation? Consider this:

Leonardo DiCaprio made a profound statement in the movie Inception. Here it is.

An idea. Once lodged in the mind, almost impossible to remove. The history of Christian systematic theology might be characterized in terms of a single, simple idea. God is perfect. This simple little idea leads to the philosophical dilemma of sovereignty and free will. IF God is perfect, then (according to the Greek definition) nothing can be added or taken away from Him. And this definition means that God cannot learn anything, that what He knows He knows from all eternity and cannot be changed. Perfection demands immutability. Once this idea was introduced into exegesis, coupled with the closed universe of Greek philosophy, Scripture became statements of eternal truths rather than stories of human emotion and interaction. The resolution of this dilemma leads directly to another apparent contradiction.

So how do we read Job? Is Job’s declaration an announcement of inevitability, a statement that God controls all life and whatever He determines will happen will happen regardless of human choice? Or is Job’s declaration an emotional outcry at the futility of life, a gush of angst because it feels as if humans have no influence over the course of history?

Is Job saying that it really doesn’t matter what we do because in the end we die—as God determines? Or is he reeling under the trauma of destruction of all he holds dear, and grasping at something, anything, that helps make sense of his agony?

The tiny little idea of perfection shapes how you read Job’s story. If you’ve grown up in the West, influenced by 2000 years of Greek philosophy, you probably incorporated this idea into your thinking without even realizing its source or effect. But if you hold on to the idea, you will discover that it closes the universe, that God is the Man in the machine, moving the levers and dials to make everything happen. And nothing ever changes. Perfection leads directly to determinism. You and I matter not at all.

Topical Index: perfection, Job 1:21