The Book of Job - Lesson 40

Does Job Serve God for Nothing?

Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 40
Watching Now
Does Job Serve God for Nothing?

I. The Question of Disinterested Piety

II. Asking Someone to Be Virtuous in a Disinterested Way in Not Realistic

III. Jesus Doesn't Expect Our Motives to Be Disinterested

IV. Even the Motives of a Martyr Aren't Disinterested

V. Righteousness Demands Service That Involves Suffering

VI. Did Job Serve God for Nothing?

VII. What Does Job Learn?

  • When you see what you would describe as evil and injustice in the world, how does that affect your view of God? When someone is suffering, do you assume that it’s because they are getting what they deserve? This lecture gives you an overview of book of Job by describing his situation, how he interacts with his friends and God, and what we can learn about how God is managing the world.

  • Because there is nothing specific in the text that tells you when the book of Job was written, the sections in Job that allude to other passages of scripture give you some helpful clues. The structure of the book of Job focuses your attention on the main subject of the book which is God’s wisdom.

  • Other cultures in the ancient near east created literature with themes that are similar to the book of Job. The book of Job is unique because of his character and the answer that the book provides for the situation he is in.

  • Job is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. It covers more “advanced” topics than Proverbs and uses a variety of literary genres and allusions to other Biblical passages to explain and illustrate profound truths about God’s nature and his involvement in the world.

  • There is limited information in the book of Job about its geographical and historical background. However, it can be helpful to understand general information about the geography and history of the area to give you a context for reading and studying the book of Job. The author of the book of Job was a Hebrew poet who had an extensive vocabulary. Being uncertain about history and geography is good because the message is timeless.

  • Job contains literary elements that are similar to what you find in other Biblical books that are Apocalyptic. These elements include depictions of events in heaven and on earth, the emphasis on specific numbers and persevering in your faith in God, the references to mythological animals and God’s supernatural control of all events. 

  • Satan appears before God with an accusation against Job. Even though Job is described as, “upright and blameless,” Satan accuses Job of serving God only because Job is prosperous. God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions, children and health. The remainder of the book is the dialogue of Job and his friends attempting to determine why this is happening.

  • Job curses the day he was born. When you carefully examine what he is saying, you realize that it is more intense than just saying that he wished he had never lived.

  • Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

  • Eliphaz considers the message of the, “night spirit” a revelation from God. However, at it’s core, this message is inconsistent with God’s attitude toward Job, and creation in general.

  • Job’s theological worldview has fallen apart because he knows he doesn’t deserve to suffer. Eliphaz calls Job to repent. Job responds questioning why he is suffering, because according to his worldview, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.   

  • Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

  • When Job’s friends describe God as all powerful in an attempt to comfort Job, he becomes terrified because he sees God as causing his suffering and there is nothing that can stop it.

  • Zophar assumes that Job is being punished because he sinned and accuses him of mocking God. Job's three friends move from tactful suggestions to open hostility. As Job is searching for answers, he becomes disappointed in his friends.

  • Job agrees with his friends that God is causing his suffering, but disagrees with them about why it’s happening. Job believes that God will eventually vindicate him.

  • Eliphaz appeals to the night spirit and the tradition of the elders to tell Job that he is a babbling and blaspheming fool.

  • Job begins by criticizing what his friends are saying to him and then professes his faith in God. Bildad responds harshly to Job.

  • Even though Job’s friends have criticized him, he has grown in his faith in God. Job is worn out and begs for compassion. When he gets nothing but contempt and hostility instead, he confesses his faith and hope in God. The messianic theology of Job is different from any other book of the Bible.  

  • Zophar uses metaphors that are found in other passages of scripture as well as Job’s own words to accuse Job of being wicked. However, Zophar made a serious error, which we need to avoid in our lives.

  • Job continues to wrestle with the presence of evil in the world and the apparent injustice of God. 

  • Eliphaz attacks Job as being wicked by twisting the meaning of what Job has said previously. The irony is that Job will be reconciled to God and will pray for Eliphaz.

  • Job wants to lay out his case before God by claiming his innocence. Job says that God is hidden and does as he chooses, but that God neither judges the guilty nor helps the righteous. Bildad responds by contrasting God’s holiness and human lowliness.

  • Job sarcastically thanks the friends for their wise words, which he doesn’t think were wise at all.

  • This is a poem about wisdom that divides the content of the book and points to a deep truth. It is inserted by the author of the book and is not attributed to Job or the friends.

  • The crisis that Job is experiencing is not just the material losses and physical suffering, but also his crisis of faith. He thought he understood what his relationship with God is all about but he feels that God has abandoned him for no apparent reason. Job laments the pain he feels from being disgraced and humiliated.

  • This is the last major statement that Job makes, other than his responses to God that come later. Job is taking a series of oaths that he has not committed any of the sins he mentions. The Bible is distinctive in declaring that all people are created equally, in the image of God. In ancient cultures, some people intrinsically have more value than others because of heritage, wealth, gender, race, etc. God looks on everyone impartially.  

  • Elihu is not mentioned either before or after his speech. He claims to be perfect in knowledge. Elihu thinks that the other three did not convince Job because they did not give a satisfactory answer, but Elihu ends up repeating what they have already said. He thinks that the doctrine of retribution is the answer to Job’s situation. Elihu is a warning to us that we don’t have all the answers.

  • The questions of the book of Job are, “How does God address the problem of evil and why do we serve God? God created a world that is stable and not chaotic. Where there was chaos, God brought in light, shape and beauty. Chaotic forces are necessary for life and God controls them.

  • People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in constant fear of the chaos, danger, ferocity of nature and they valued subduing, controlling and pushing back nature. Wilderness was something to be tamed and pushed back by civilization. In the Gilgamesh epic poem, Enkidu is transformed into a civilized man who protects the domestic animals from the wild animals. In Egypt, there were gods of the Black Land and gods of the Red Land. God sees everything in the world as entirely under his control.

  • God’s care for the animals and how this relates to the problem of Job. All of the things that we see as chaos, and out of control depend on God and thrive because he provides for them and things that he manages and glories in. God describes nature as good, unlike the night spirit that describes it with contempt and loathing. God knows how to manage the chaotic elements of creation.

  • The societies of the Ancient Near East had a high concept of justice. It was the duty of the rulers to uphold justice and protect the powerless. If you are a man who leads, you need to make sure that evil is held in check. Listen to people who come to you with a grievance. God is asking Job if he comprehends what it means to bring justice to the world. It involves both power and wisdom.

  • Behemoth is the plural form of a Hebrew word that refers to animals in general also specifically to wild animals. In Job, it’s also used as a metaphor representing the composite forces of the powers of the earth that are against God.

  • Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

  • Job 41 describes Leviathan. Leviathan is not a natural animal like a crocodile. Sometimes Leviathan refers to a large sea creature, and sometimes death, chaos and the embodiment of evil. Satan is present at the first of the book but he is never mentioned again. In order for God to deal with evil in the world, he must defeat Leviathan.

  • Leviathan is a ferocious creature that no human can subdue. God is saying that he is willing to oppose Leviathan and  is not frightened of Leviathan or intimidated by his boasting. God is the one who will defeat this enemy who seems unbeatable to humans. God tells Job that he will deal with Leviathan but God doesn’t tell him how he will do it. Job embraced God’s answer even though Job didn’t know how God would deal with evil.

  • Job announces that he has changed his outlook on evil, God’s governance of the world and his own suffering. Job knew that God is all-powerful. Now Job knows something more about how God uses his power. Should God be merciful to people who will still be evil? Eschatological is an event that can only happen by a work of God. Emergence of divine power within the historical context. Job admits that he didn’t understand the complexity that is involved in God conquering evil. God forgives Job’s three friends because Job interceded for them. God is showing his approval with job by publicly restoring him.

  • Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

  • Job mentions composite animals similar to those described in other apocalyptic passages. Job had faith that God would do a work of salvation but didn’t understand everything that Jesus would do. There is a hidden plan of God to redeem people and conquer evil that is a major theme in apocryphal books and also in Job.

  • Job tells us about the heavenly mediator. Prior to his afflictions, Job’s life was almost god-like because he was relatively free of suffering. Job through his affliction, faces the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race. Even though some people commit evil and violent acts, Job describes them in pitiful terms.

  • Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

If God is good and powerful, why do you see suffering in the world? Why do you serve God even when you experience suffering? How do you respond to others when they ask these questions? How have you answered them for yourself? These are such important questions that the entire book of Job is devoted discussing only these issues in the context of the perspective of the experiences of one person. 

The theme of the book of Job is timeless and singular. There are clues about its geographical and historical setting but nothing in the book itself that identifies the place or time of its writing. However, the setting is irrelevant because the questions that are addressed in the Book of Job are ones that people have asked in all cultures, throughout time. It would be distracting and even limiting to frame the dialogue in a specific time or culture. There are enough clues in the text to give you a general idea of the culture and time it was written in to help you understand the logic and metaphors used by the main characters in their dialogue. 

The complete book of Job is composed of the dialogue of Job, his friends and God regarding the issues of God's goodness, his power, and evil in the world. No historical events. No other personal, corporate or theological issues. Since these questions are central to your understanding of God's character and how he works in the world around us throughout history, the book of Job compels you to consider this question deeply and exhaustively. The point is that by the end of the book, you can understand and articulate who God is and how he works in your life and in the world. 

The value of this class is that Dr. Garrett helps you understand what the text means, the historical and theological implications, and how you apply it to your life. Dr. Garrett's knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the Hebrew language and background in Ancient Near Eastern history and culture inform his insights into the message of the book and what it means to you. He is skilled at explaining technical linguistic and theological issues in a way that helps you comprehend them and see how they apply to your life. Whether you are just beginning in your study of the Bible or you have had training at an advanced academic level, studying the Book of Job with Dr. Garrett has the potential change the way you understand God and also how you live each day. 

Recommended Books

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

This Student's Guide is for the class on The Book of Job in BiblicalTraining.org. It contains the outlines to the lectures, a summary of each point, and reflection...

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide


We have come to the end of the book of Job and the end of our discussion of its theology, message and meaning for us. I want to close it with one small topic, that is the question that is raised at the very beginning of the book by Satan himself,  “Does Job serve God for nothing?” That is chapter 1, verse 9.

I. The Question of Disinterested Piety

It is the question that we refer to as “disinterested piety” or the idea that virtue should be disinterested. What does that mean? It is the idea that when one does what is right or one serves God, it should be done for its own sake, or it is not real. For example, if the only reason you help a person is because you expect that person to help you in return, then is that really virtue? Of course there is some value in this critique. Jesus warns us not to just invite people over who we expect to invite us back. Jesus wants us to be compassionate to the poor, not just do good to people who we expect to repay us.

There is certainly truth in the idea that there can be a virtue that is artificial, that you do things for people or perhaps even that you serve God in a way that is phony because you are just looking for some kind of payback.

II. Asking Someone to be Virtuous in a Disinterested Way is Not Realistic

On the other hand, asking someone to be virtuous or to be devoted to God purely in a disinterested way with no self interest at all, is almost the same as asking that person to renounce his humanity. We are human beings. We have needs, we have concerns about where our decisions will lead us. Will our decisions lead to our ruin, or will our decisions be good for us? It is part of being human when making a decision, when deciding how to act, to take into account what it means for me personally. Will it help me or will it hurt me?

One might think by analogy of marriage vows. One could say, “Okay, you have vowed to be faithful to your spouse and you should be faithful to your spouse simply because you love him or her and because you have made a vow and in your integrity you will keep it.” That would be purely disinterested. You do it absolutely out of love for the other person and absolutely because you are a person of integrity and when you give your word, you make a vow, you keep it.

That is all well and good, but in real life we know that if you don’t keep your vow, it’s going to be trouble. You are going to rack yourself with guilt. You are very likely to destroy your marriage. You are going to do something that you will never really get away from. You can never really escape adultery. So people keep their marriage vows, yes, because they love their spouses and yes, because they made promises and they want to keep their promises; but also because they know that adultery is a self-destructive act. Very few acts of virtue or even acts of devotion to God are purely disinterested.

III. Jesus Doesn’t Expect Our Motives to Be Disinterested

Jesus Himself does not expect that our devotion to him and our discipleship will be entirely disinterested. Consider, for example, what Jesus says in Matthew 19:29: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my name’s sake will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus is plainly saying there is a quid pro quo. If you will be his disciple, if you will pay the ultimate cost of losing houses, losing family, losing relationships with mother or children, losing lands, giving up these things for the sake of Christ, you will receive a reward. You will receive eternal life and you will receive benefits and joys beyond which you could ever imagine, both in this life and in the next. Again, Jesus does not really expect our devotion to him to be disinterested.

IV. Even the Motives of a Martyr Aren’t Disinterested

The Martyr who burns at the stake rather than renounce his or her faith might be thought of as being purely disinterested. But in fact, he or she does it in the hope of eternal life, believes that God will raise the dead and that his obedience to Christ, his bearing of the cross, his dying for the sake of the Gospel will not be missed by God. So even those who die for the sake of God, if they do it in the faith, they are not doing it purely in a disinterested way. They are doing it because they believe God sees and God rewards.

V. Righteousness Demands Service That Involves Suffering

On the other hand, as the martyr indicates, righteousness demands service that comes along with suffering; and the suffering does not always end in a tangible way, that is in this life. People can suffer right up to and into the point of death.

This is the fiery cross. This is the long and hard pilgrimage and the taking up of the cross.

So we can say that devotion to God is not disinterested in the sense that there is no reward whatsoever for what they do. On the other hand, we cannot say that it is easy. Devotion to God and to Christ can be very painful. It is the suffering that both tests and purifies.

Paul testifies to this at the very end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:1-8: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:”

Notice right here, he is about to give this charge to Timothy, but he does it with a view towards the return of Christ and the judgment of Christ. So Paul has in mind what we might think of as penalties and rewards. It is not purely disinterested.

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations , endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties in your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

I think it is pretty obvious what we have here in Paul’s great final testimony. He has suffered greatly in his life. He describes it as being poured out like a drink offering. Of course, in the Ancient World, as part of a worship service people would often pour out a libation in which you would have a flask of wine and typically you would pour it on the ground. That is how Paul sees his life. In the service of Christ, his life has been poured out and drained out and he has suffered enormously for the sake of the Gospel. But he says, “There is laid up for me a crown of life.” He expects to receive eternal life as a reward for all that he has done, and he expects the same for all who are true disciples of Christ.

VI. Did Job Serve God for Nothing?

What can we say in answer to Satan’s question, Does Job fear God for nothing? I would say, No, he doesn’t fear God for nothing. In that sense his love for God is not disinterested, but it is real. And the reality of Job’s love for God, or Paul’s, or any other Christian’s, is in the perseverance of his faithfulness to God.

So it is not that you fear God for nothing, but it is that your fear of God, your discipleship, your obedience, your love for God is valid because it endures and it endures even in the face of terrible suffering.

VII. What Does Job Learn?

The last thing I would say about this is something that we have already described with regard to the book of Job. That is, What does Job ultimately learn from all of this?

He learns that his reward is not in having a lot of kids, in having a lot of wealth and living a long life. All of those things he does get, but those are all secondary. His actual reward is God Himself. Job knows God. And in the face of all the evil and suffering that is in the world, Job has confidence in God, that God will set it all right. And whether Job is rich or poor, he can now hold fast to his relationship to God, be unshaken in it, because he has God in his life.

Devotion to God is not disinterested; but if it perseveres in the face of suffering, it is real and the reality of it is shown in that the follower of God has God Himself in his life.

That finishes up our course in Job. I hope this has been useful for all of you and I hope it has deepened your Christian faith and your commitment to Jesus Christ.