Cover image via BYU Religious Studies Center.

Albert Jay Nock, the publisher of the original Freeman, started it all with an essay entitled, “Isaiah’s Job.”[1]  Nock said that our mission is not to the masses, but to a small remnant of true believers.  Like Isaiah, we can easily get discouraged because our cause will never be popular.  But we must never despair.  We must preach to a wider audience because there are always unidentified allies among our listeners.  The remnant will hear our voice and recognize the truth and follow the good shepherd. 

As the Lord said, “Ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” (Doctrine & Covenants 29:7). 

Gary North proceeded with another essay entitled “Jeremiah’s Job.”  According to North, the job of Jeremiah, another prophet in ancient Israel, was to teach us to persevere to the end and never give up hope.  Despite short-term setbacks and rejection, “There is hope for the long run for those who are faithful to his message,” North concluded.[2]

Next, Ridgway K. Foley, Jr., wrote “Ezkiel’s Job,” declaring that Ezekiel’s mission was to teach the importance of obeying the laws and statutes of God, as summarized in the Ten Commandments.[3]

Now we come to Job, another Old Testament giant and national symbol of Godly integrity and patient endurance in suffering.  What can we learn from this gem in Hebrew literature? 

The account of Job is simple. Job was a wealthy and devout Israelite from the land of Uz, an empire builder with a family of seven sons and three daughters, and a large estate of sheep, camels and other animals.  He was “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3).  But the Adversary demanded that God prove Job’s allegiance, and the Lord agreed to the test. Job’s children were killed, his property destroyed, and his body inflicted with panful boils. His wife encouraged him to “curse God, and die,” and his three friends, claiming that his afflictions were due to a sinful past, exhorted him to repent. Despite all this, Job was loyal and “did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Eventually vindicated, he sired another seven sons and three daughters and the Lord “gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

Is Perfection Possible?

Job is the story of the persevering saint. For most of us, he seems superhuman to withstand the trials he faced – the physical, mental and spiritual torture he experienced. Can we truly relate to this Christ-like figure who “in all this Job sinned not, not charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). 

Yet, if you read the book of Job carefully, you see he is not perfect, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23).  At times Job questions, criticizes, and accuses, and frequently wishes he were dead.  His three friends “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1).  At one point, the ancient Israelite confesses his “vile” pride (Job 40:4). 

The Lesson of Job

So what was Job’s job? What can we learn? The story of Job teaches several important lessons to all who are engaged in a righteous cause, whether in religion, charity, academics, or business.  Our work may not be popular or well received.  We may be misunderstood and falsely accused, even by our friends and closest allies.  The Lord will try us, to see what we are made of.  Yet we must not give up hope, no matter how difficult the road.  If we pass the test, the rewards will be immeasurable.

Like Job, we must endure to the end and never give in.

Facing persecution, ridicule, pain, and misfortune, we may be tempted to “curse God and die.”  It’s easy to be depressed, but Job teaches us to keep going, despite all the odds.  To quote St. Paul, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). 

Surely, adversity will come our way: Sickness, injury, job loss, family fights, loss of friends, and disappointment may be our lot.  Our cause may suffer. Our beliefs may be questioned and rejected, by both family and friends.  Our body of work may not be well received. Our products may not sell. Our theories may be rejected by our colleagues. The establishment media may ignore, misjudge or malign us.  They may say in their hearts, “We will not listen to you, because you come from the wrong part of town, your religion is false, or you do not have the proper credentials.”  We can expect doors to be slammed in our face. People of influence and power may be at odds with our mission. “Great men are not always wise,” Job warns (Job 32:9).

Our enemies may prosper. “Where do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?” (Job 21:7).  Their books may reach the bestseller lists.  Their views are likely to be heard in the classroom in major universities.  They can obtain all the funding they need.

Even our friends may abandon us from time to time, as happened to Job.  We expect the enemy outside, but all too often, the enemy is also within. In-fighting among disciples is common place and frustrating. Our colleagues in business or academia may become jealous of our abilities. We may be falsely accused, just as Job was. We may be disinvited and disfellowshipped.

If anyone were justified in becoming bitter and depressed, it was Job. He lost everything all at once—his family, his possessions, his health, his friends, his reputation.  He suffered, even though he was innocent. “Why me?” is a question he probably asked a thousand times. Yet, amazingly, he never forsook God or his natural optimism. After listing all his misfortunes, he was able to exclaim, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

If Job teaches us anything, it is to have courage and integrity in the face of trials and tribulations. We may be tempted to sell out to power, influence, money and commercialism. Ernest Hemingway once said, “I need money badly, but not badly enough to do one dishonorable, shady, borderline, or ‘fast’ thing to get it.” We may want friendship and financial reward so desperately that we compromise our position. The temptation is great, and we would not be the first to give in. But Job teachings us to withstand the enticements of the world.

Under the circumstances, like Job, it’s easy to become discouraged (Job 10:1). As Job says, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  Eventually our work will pay off and we will triumph—if not in this life, then in the life to come. As physicist Max Plank states, “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

What are the rewards for our suffering and enduring to the end?  Job was blessed even more than before his trials.  He had what economists call a long-time preference. He was willing to sacrifice now for higher future blessings later.  And so, if we patiently live up to high moral standards, we too shall participate of the goodness of the earth and come forth as gold in the heavens beyond.

To quote one of Job’s friends, “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore despite not the chastening of the Almighty; For he makes sore and binds up; he wounds and his hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18). 

About the Author

Mark Skousen is a Presidential Fellow and the Doti-Spogli Endowed Chair of Free Enterprise at Chapman University, and the author of “The Making of Modern Economics.”  He can be reached at ms******@ch*****.edu.

[1] “Isaiah’s Job” was originally published in Albert Jay Nock, Free Speech and Plain Language (William Morrow & Co., 1937), chapter 13, and reprinted in The Freeman (March, 1997).

[2] Gary North, “Jeremiah’s Job,” The Freeman (March, 1978) and reprinted in Mary Sennholz, ed., Faith of Our Fathers (Foundation for Economic Education, 1997), pp. 113-119. 

[3] Ridgway K. Foley, Jr., “Ezekiel’s Job,” The Freeman (September, 1990), and reprinted in Sennholz., ed., Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 120-131.