Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PITY FOR YOUR FRIEND”

Job 6.14

 

Imagine your world ending. You are informed that you are bankrupted and penniless. Then you receive word that your children have all been brutally murdered. As if that is not enough to bring any man low, you are then overcome with a disease that leaves you covered with boils from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet.

Nothing is available to ease the pain. No one is around to comfort your soul, since even your wife approaches you with the wise counsel to curse God, so He will smite you dead and thereby end your suffering.

Hammer blow after hammer blow. You thought your financial ruin was devastating, until you were told your admirable sons and precious daughters you loved so deeply were slain. Then, already feeling like you had been stepped on like an insect under a heavy boot, yet still barely able to resist foolishly opening your mouth and sinning against God, your wife advises, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.”[1]

Can you sink any lower? Can your feelings of loneliness and isolation be even more pronounced? Thankfully, word had come that his three friends were due to arrive. We are told, “they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him” when they were told of his great afflictions and profound suffering.[2] However, as they approached him they were so stunned at being unable to recognize him, so disfigured was his countenance from the boils, that they lifted up their voices and wept, tore their garments for grief, and threw dust into the air to signal their horror.[3] They were so taken aback by what they saw, so stunned by the hideousness of their friend, so shocked by his grief, that they sat on the ground before him, utterly silent and without a word for seven days and seven nights. Not a word of comfort. Not a word of consolation. No mutterings of compassion. No sighs of solidarity.

It was after a week of silence that Job could take no more, and he began to curse his predicament and to regret the day he was born. When he fell silent, the first of the three friends, Eliphaz, began to speak. What Job was suffering in his affliction was so contrary to his friends’ understand of the nature and goodness of God that this first friend concluded that Job must have done something terribly wrong to receive such misery from the hand of God, and that Job should be glad to endure God’s chastening hand.[4]

I will leave it to you to read the book of Job once again, and to study the debate that raged between Job and his friends who had originally come to comfort him. However, the background I have presented is enough that we can turn directly to the text of my sermon, Job 6.14: “To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.”

Job said many things in defense of himself, and his comforters said many more things to accuse him of some type of wrongdoing. After all, things like this do not just happen to a godly man for no reason, they reasoned. Our text is Job’s stinging rebuke to his friends, but it is a verse that is not so clear in its meaning that all the scholars who study it are agreed as to its message.

Some are of the opinion that Job is telling his friends that friends should always show pity to a friend who is afflicted, even if he has forsaken the fear of the Almighty. Others are of the opinion that Job is telling his friends that friends should always show pity to a friend who is afflicted, because they do not know if for lack of their pity their afflicted friend may forsake the fear of the Almighty.[5] There are even some who are of the opinion that Job is telling his friends that friends should always show pity to a friend who is afflicted, because if they do not they are forsaking the fear of the Almighty.[6]

The reason for the divergence of opinions has to do with the Hebrew words. A wooden literal interpretation of the words would read something like this: To him who despaireth, he who withholds from his friend kindness and the fear of the Almighty forsakes.[7]

Therefore, you see, this is a tough verse to get a good grip on. The one thing that all are in agreement about is that friends are urged to have pity upon the one who is melted or dissolved with afflictions.[8]

How very low Job was from the loss of his possessions. How much lower did he sink under the tragedy and heartache of his children’s deaths. Add to that the caustic remark from his vinegar-tongued wife. But then, after no doubt expecting some encouragement from his friends, he gets kicked in the teeth by Eliphaz’ unfounded accusations of wrongdoing.

His response? In so many words, Job tells us that friends are supposed to show pity when they see you afflicted. The why of it is in dispute. Show pity even if your friend has forsaken the fear of the Almighty, or to keep him from forsaking the fear of the Almighty, or to give evidence that you have not forsaken the fear of the Almighty. The why of this course of action is in dispute.

However, there can be no doubt that part of being a friend is having pity upon that person who is being melted by affliction. There is nothing here about judging whether the person deserves your pity, as though there was some qualification to measure up to besides being overcome by suffering or circumstances. You do not evaluate the merit of the individual you observe being crushed; only that he is being crushed.

As for the pity, Job is not suggesting his friends give him a handout, that they volunteer to make his car payment, or fork over cash so he can pay his insurance. This word pity simply means kindness.[9] How much does it cost to be kind? Anyone can afford kindness, tenderness, compassion, and some time.

The meaning of our text now established well enough to suit our purposes, what lessons can we lift from the text to apply to our own lives and ministries?

 

First, THE AFFLICTED PERSON NEEDS SOME OF YOUR TIME

 

Criticize Job’s harsh and judgmental friends all you want, at least they took the time to come to his side when others did not. Chastise them for sitting silently for a week without uttering a word of comfort to the lonely and dispirited Job? At least they gave a week.

Remember the days before the automobile, before the telephone, and before electricity? Some of you are old enough to remember, back in the days when you could not hole up in your house or rush past people at 60 miles per hour you spent time with people. On the front porch in the evening, or stopped in the road in your wagon and talking for a while to the other guy heading in the other direction, people took time with each other.

To be sure, all was not well in the days before technology and the rush that overwhelms us these days. In His parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord Jesus Christ tells His story of the priest and the Levite quickly passing by the beaten victim.[10] However, technology piles on top of the natural wickedness of sinful man to more easily justify the unwillingness to expend one’s time on behalf of the afflicted. We are so busy being shallow with so many people that we have little time left over to be genuine and real with even one person.

We cannot invest time after church to befriend the afflicted visitor who walked into our auditorium only a few minutes before. There is a roast in the oven at home. There is a get-together that has been arranged with family and friends, and no thought will be given to bringing to the gathering a new friend . . . so you can invest some of your time into his life.

In Jesus’ day, there was a legitimate place in the society for beggars. But in our society the role of beggar has been overtaken by entrepreneurial hustlers who play on emotions, patriotism, guilt, conscience, Christian sentiment, and who knows what else, to extract money from passersby. However, what is money? Money is time. Is not each dollar you have in your pocket or purse a paper certificate worth some portion of your time? However, the hustlers do not want your time, because they have no interest in either your help or your friendship. They want only your money. In addition, since so many people have no interest in being personally involved, have no desire to invest time, they are perfectly willing to toss some impersonal paper at the hustler as they drive by.

My friends, the off-ramp hustlers are willing to take your money because they are not afflicted. At least, they do not see themselves as afflicted, or else they would welcome your time. The way you can tell who is genuinely afflicted, who is being melted in the furnace of affliction, who is being tried by the fires of circumstance, is by his need for your time.

The question is not whether the person who walks into church needs your time. That is so often a given. The question is whether you are willing to give your time, or to provide the spiritual leadership to show the members of your family how to give their time.

 

Second, THE AFFLICTED PERSON NEEDS SOME OF YOUR CONCERN

 

This is how I interpret the word “pity” in our text. If you look up the Hebrew word it translates, you will find it elsewhere translated as mercy, as merciful, as kindness, as kindly, as goodness, as good deeds, as favour, and as lovingkindness. In the more than 240 verses in which the word is found in the Old Testament, you would be surprised to learn that many times the word is used to describe the attitude and behavior of God toward people, as well as of people toward each other. Thus, demonstrating pity is a virtue.

This seems contrary to what most people appear to believe about showing pity. If most people were to be observed, you would think that only the naive, only the foolish, only the young, only the gullible, show pity upon someone who is afflicted by circumstances. How, then, does one explain that so often it is God who shows pity?

I submit that the Bible clearly shows that God exhibits pity, which is to say, God shows concern for others. I also submit that the Bible clearly shows that exhibiting concern for the afflicted is behavior God desires in His own people.

James 1.27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Does this verse not suggest both one’s time as well as one’s concern?

Proverbs 17.17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

First John 3.17: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

How do you read these passages in God’s Word and then rush to your car to go home without giving both time and concern to that first time guest? If this is the kind of tenderness and compassion that should be exhibited toward our brothers in Christ, how can we not justify doing the same for those who we hope to someday be our brothers in Christ?

 

Finally, THE AFFLICTED PERSON NEEDS SOME OF YOU

 

Of course, this is what most people are terribly afraid of. If I give this person some of my time, I will then be expected to give this person some of my compassion and real concern. However, if that happens, I will form an actual relationship with that guy and may feel obligated to actually invest my life in him. However, how can I invest my life in another human being, while maintaining my well-ordered and sterile existence as the sovereign who is in absolute control of every facet of my life?

Excuse me, but life is messy and unpredictable. I know pastors who are so good at making and keeping a schedule, each and every week getting their sermons done by Wednesday or Thursday, leaving a couple of days free each week for long range planning and personal development. However, such an existence requires that you excise real people out of your life, dealing with sinners through surrogate staff members. I am sorry for such pastors, because real ministry occurs at ground level with real people each day.

Do you realize that church members end up doing the same kind of insulating of their lives from real ministry? Get up on Sunday morning and come to church. Go home after church. Come back to church Sunday evening. Go home after church. Come to Bible study on Wednesday. Go home after church. Then come to evangelism Saturday evening. Then go home after evangelism.

How can a Christian manage to do that each week without a real, personal, involved encounter with an afflicted soul? How can you Eliphaz so many people, week after week, to make a verb of the man’s name that epitomizes a refusal to show pity toward the afflicted? No wonder so many church kids end up discounting Christianity. It has no appearance or feel of reality to them, because it is so impersonal, so unfeeling, so judgmental, and so merciless.

 

Let me directly apply our text to those lost folks we work hard to get into our auditorium, and pray for once they actually begin to attend our services. They are afflicted, but in a more sorrowful and deadly way than Job was afflicted. You see, Job was a godly man. He was converted. However, so many who come into our auditorium are yet in their sins. How much greater is their affliction than any physical illness or circumstantial catastrophe.

How much greater is the need for pity, then, for the lost man than for the crippled man, for the unconverted person than for the bankrupt person? What that person needs is Jesus Christ. For that reason, we do preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, the only savior of sinful men’s souls, the Living Water who satisfies every man’s spiritual thirst, the Bread of Life who nourishes the soul’s hunger.

However, the willingness of that precious soul to listen to the message, the validation that he is looking for to certify the authenticity of what we claim to believe and preach, is directly related to the pity we have for that afflicted one, the kindness we exhibit.

These are not people who come here looking for handouts, as though they were pathetic losers. That is not the case at all. They are people of intelligence and sophistication who recognize that something is terribly wrong with the Christianity they have thus far been exposed to, and they have a dread that something is not right with their relationship with God.

Our task is to see their affliction without feeling sorry for them. Our responsibility is to remember ourselves in exactly the same situation they were in, and to be the friend to them that our Christian friends were to us. Perhaps you have been here a long, long time. Maybe you have no memory of walking into an auditorium as a stranger, surrounded by people you do not know. I remember. I know how important it is to pity the afflicted fellow, since I was such a fellow.

Want to reach the lost? Want to certify to your own children the reality and validity of Christianity? Then show pity toward the friend you made only minutes ago the first time he set foot in the auditorium. Give him some of your precious time. Keep in mind that he also needs some of your genuine concern. And of course, that will lead, as it should lead, to you actually giving to him some of the real you. When this congregation begins to show pity toward our new friends, then I am persuaded God will pour out blessings such as we cannot begin to imagine. Feel sorry for no one. Be a real friend to everyone.



[1] Job 2.9

[2] Job 2.11

[3] Job 2.12

[4] Job 5.17

[5] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol 4, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 306.

[6] John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)

[7] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989), page 160.

[8] Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 936.

[9] Owens, page 160.

[10] Luke 10.30-32

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org