After Job heard enough criticism from his “friends,” my heart breaks for him, as I read his words,
“I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off
criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:4-5 NLT
Seems Job’s friends were being easy on themselves, but hard on Job. How often do we see this today? In the church and in politics we hear of two camps – liberals and conservatives. However we are seldom in one camp or the other. Many of us are liberal in some ways and conservative in other ways. Or we are liberal towards ourselves, but conservative towards others. In other words, we cut ourselves some slack, but we expect everyone else to step it up a notch and hold to the standard. Is that how we should be?
Let’s look at Jesus as our example. Was He in the liberal camp or the conservative camp? Like us, He was in both camps, but instead of being liberal towards Himself, and conservative towards others, He was the exact opposite. When He fasted in the wilderness 40 days, He was conservative towards Himself, but when He worked a miracle to feed the multitude He was liberal towards others.
It is rare to find someone who is truly 100% liberal or 100% conservative. I have heard some preachers preach some pretty liberal sermons, but saw them actually live pretty conservative lives, while I have also heard preachers who preach quite conservative sermons on such topics as diet and Sabbath keeping, but in their personal lives, they are quite liberal in what they allow themselves to eat or do on the Sabbath.
I have met several families who follow Jesus’ example of being liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves. One Sabbath I brought my cheese enchiladas to church, only to find out there was no fellowship dinner that day. A family that was strictly vegan, invited me to their home. They told me, “bring your enchiladas over to our house, and fellowship with us. You can warm them up in our oven, and eat them while we eat what we have prepared.” First they realized how important fellowship is, and did not tell me how terrible I was for eating cheese or tell me I could not bring it into their home. They were liberal towards me, but conservative towards themselves.
Years later I was eating with another family, who had generously given large sums of money to the church for evangelism and had recently given an extremely generous contribution for a youth mission trip. However, in the course of conversation they mentioned, what appeared to me, to be a relatively modest vacation one of their children wanted to take, but the parents said, “We don’t have that kind of money.” Wow! I thought to myself, they can give thousands to evangelism and mission trips, but when it comes to their own vacations they say, ‘We don’t have that kind of money to take a modest vacation for ourselves.” They were liberal towards the needs of the church but were conservative when it came to their own wish list.
As I read the book of Job, it appears to me that he was conservative towards himself but liberal towards others. It appears to me also that his friends were liberal towards themselves but conservative towards Job. So when Job’s entire community, including himself, were conservative towards Job, but everyone including Job were liberal towards his friends, this created a very unbalanced and unhealthy community. A church and community become balanced when like Jesus, each member is liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves.