I teach, and as a teacher you sometimes have to let students talk about things they think they understand (or about which they think they have an informed opinion) because we’re in a classroom. This is a place where ideas can be shared, expanded, tweaked, or picked apart. Sometimes this is painful, because some ideas are just so wrong. But it’s not my place to tell people what to believe. It’s my job to step in and identify lapses in logic and lack of evidence for an argument, etc.
But outside the classroom, it’s not so easy to let people spew nonsense, especially when that nonsense is fueled by hate. For example, every time I hear about the misguided individuals associated with the Westboro church, my blood boils. These supposed followers of God like to show up at high profile funerals to protest, an act they hope will shed light on the ways in which this country has lost its way, mostly due to the acceptance of gays, etc.
Supposedly, they speak for God, and they even have a website that speaks for God, named for a phrase that I have yet to see in the Bible. Yet I can’t see God picketing the funerals of those killed in the recent Boston marathon bombing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/westboro-boston-marathon_n_3091174.html
While listening to his friends attempt to educate him in the ways of God, Job endures a different kind of ignorance as he listened in his misery. What they say isn’t necessarily the painful part; rather, the pain comes in understanding the depth to which they believe that what they spew is accurate. They feel perfectly comfortable speaking with authority on God’s behalf. It seems they understand God better than Job, who they are sure must have done something to warrant his present predicament. In fact, they suggest Job is being disciplined (5:17), that he must have done something to warrant God’s wrath (8:3), and, instead of suggesting otherwise, Job needs to plead to God and make peace with him in order to find relief (22:21).
The readers of this book of the Bible know how ignorant these friends sound, but only if they’ve read the beginning and understood God’s interaction with Satan (which opens the book). Missing that, there’s not much to suggest the friends aren’t echoing what a lot of people believe, have experienced, and endured thus far in the Old Testament. What makes it such a fascinating read is just how ridiculous these friends sound—they’d be right at home in say, Exodus, or Genesis or, well, most of the other books. So given its placement in the Bible, this book suggests that people who have followed God’s word may have a few things twisted, so perhaps you shouldn’t offer advice because you just might be wrong (even if you believe, in your heart of hearts that you’re correct).
The real lesson of The Book of Job is Job’s unshakeable faith, that even through his darkest days, he has faith in God. I’m not sure whether to commend faith in a person/being who uses you as a pawn in a bet, though. Testing people is one thing; putting them through hell just to prove a point to Satan feels cruel.
As far as what that professor said, that still irks me, even all these years later, I’m glad I grew up and learned just how wrong she was. I’d hate to think that my fellow students didn’t. Even worse, in conversation, they might tell someone they know what they “learned” that day.