Job 35:5-8 – Look at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds high above you. If you sin, how does it affect God? If you multiply your transgressions, what does it do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness, a son of man.
One of the biggest cultural differences between Hebraic and Western thought has to do with worldview motivation. What I mean by this is that in Western thought, what one believes is what’s most important. In Hebraic thought, what one does is what’s most important. In fact, the biblical view is that what you believe is demonstrated by what you do. This is amply attested to by James in his famous passage:
James 2:17-18 – “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.”
In the story of Job, Elihu illustrates this for Job by pointing to the clouds, imagery which is employed throughout the Bible as representing the over-arching presence of God.
Deuteronomy 33:26 – “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in his majesty.”
Psalm 18:11 – “He made darkness his hiding place, dark storm clouds his canopy around him.”
Psalm 104:2-3 – “He wraps himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of his palace on the waters above, making the clouds his chariot, walking on the wings of the wind…”
Elihu establishes the idea that if Job thinks his righteous somehow affects God directly, or that wickedness of a person creates havoc in the realm where God exists, we misunderstand our sphere of influence. No, he argues, the clouds have no noticeable change due to our actions, good or bad. In like fashion, he states, God is unaffected by our specific actions. However, our actions, good or bad, righteous or wicked, do have an impact on others, and that is why we should be motivated to do what’s right.
This sounds a bit foreign to our Western sensibilities, since we are typically focused on believing what is right and rejecting what is wrong at all costs. This is certainly a significant aspect of our role: ensuring our doctrine is sound. However, what most times is lost in the culture shift between Hebraic and Western thought is the emphasis on our physical actions. These are many times downplayed at the expense of “right” beliefs.
The Bible tells a little bit different story, though. For example, Zacchaeus demonstrated the sincerity of his faith by what he did.
Luke 19:8-9 – “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Yeshua told him, because he too is a son of Abraham.”
Tabitha was recognized for the acts of kindness she performed in her life. The text doesn’t say what she believed, but what she did.
Acts 9:36 – “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity.”
Yeshua was righteous because he went about doing good, not just teaching what was good.
Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.”
Those who are affected by our actions are the very ones whom God desires we be positive examples to. If we truly desire to have an impact in this world for God, and if we are seeking righteousness and integrity, then our lives should be examples to those around us who can benefit from our righteous actions. God doesn’t receive a direct benefit from our righteousness, but others do.
The one benefit God receives is that when we act in righteous ways, his Name is honored among the nations, and the Kingdom has more opportunity to continue to grow.
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