Editor’s note: When discussing evangelism, disciple-making, and church planting, the challenge of the prosperity gospel often looms large in the background, especially in the Global South. To that end, this piece examines the prosperity gospel through the lens of Job in the Old Testament.
It’s a phrase used in west Texas. “Be careful in that wood pile! You don’t want to get snake-bit!” Rattlesnake bites are not frequent, but they happen often enough that anti-venom is kept on-hand at even the smallest hospitals. Without it, the consequence can be gruesome.
In some respects, the first three chapters of Genesis comprise a story of creation getting “snake-bit.” God, in his grace, immediately applied the anti-venom—an animal sacrificed on behalf of the trespassers—and promised One who would ultimately crush the head of the snake and reverse his toxic effects.
In the early days of U.S. expansion, Chinese railroad workers used snake oil to effectively battle inflammation in their tired joints. Soon fraudulent doctors were creating their own snake oil with local rattlesnakes. The properties in these concoctions did not have the same effect, but the hucksters kept selling it and the people kept buying it.
Today, people who promote the prosperity gospel are offering snake oil to repair the damage done to a snake-bit creation. The solutions they offer are not only ineffective but can severely hamper the true cure found in the one who was high and lifted up (Num. 21:8; John 3:14). The book of Job is an effective antidote to this pervasive problem.
From the outset the author offered an almost poetic summary of Job’s spiritual condition: “[Job] was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil” (1:1). Job was not sinless, but the brutal treatment he experienced was not tied to any particular sin.
These two chapters of the book of Job are important because they repeatedly tell the reader that Job is an innocent sufferer and so serves as a model of Christ. Job—declared innocent by God—was allowed to suffer as a part of God’s eternal plan. Christ in every sense was and us innocent before God. He suffered as part of God’s eternal plan. This is important because without innocent suffering, substitutionary atonement in Christ could never have occurred and we’d be lost in our sin.God dangled Job out there in front of Satan like a piece of raw steak in chapter one. A deal was struck between God and Satan, Job’s entire world was savagely devoured, and yet his faith remained. In chapter two the process began anew and God himself described Job in the same way: “a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil” (2:3). God won the bet, and Satan was not heard from again.