Bedtime Theology: “I Don’t Think Job is a Christian”
We usually give our kids at least half an hour to read before bed each night, and lately my 10 year-old son has taken to reading the Bible. Not a kids’ Bible or an illustrated Bible, or anything like that, mind you. We’re talking the real thing here—a New American Standard Version, Gideons Bible that his sister inherited at the VBS put on by some local churches a few weeks ago. They were giving out free Bibles to the kids who didn’t have one—like, say, pastors’ kids. Sheesh.
He’s been reading this Bible before bed for a few weeks now. He likes the topical index feature at the front—you know, the place where it tells you which verses you should look up if you’re depressed, or lonely, or unemployed, or tempted to commit sexual immorality, or needing advice for witnessing to someone, or tempted by revenge, or considering drug/alcohol abuse. He’s been reading all kinds of strange verses out of context, and coming to some interesting conclusions. I recently found myself inadvertently longing for the days of Horton Hears a Who!
Anyway, tonight I asked him what he was reading. “Job,” he said. I cringed a little, and pressed on. “Hmm, Job’s a really interesting book. But it can be a bit confusing, too. What do you think so far?” He looked up and said, “Well, it’s kinda weird.” I wasn’t sure where to go next. “Weird” is certainly preferable to “terrifying” or “confusing” or “faith-destroying,” but still worth probing, I suppose. “What’s weird about it?” I asked. “Well,” he responded, “I don’t think Job is a Christian.” Huh. Wasn’t expecting that one.
On we forged (leaving aside the little issue of there not being such a thing as a “Christian” during Job’s day—a bedtime conversation for another day, perhaps). “Why do you say Job wasn’t a Christian?” I asked. “Well, it says he feared God.” Ah. “Well, ‘fear’ can be another way to refer to ‘respect,'” I said. “Oh,” came the muted response. “Well, it also said that Satan did lots of bad things to Job’s body.” Hmm… I was reasonably sure I was tracking with him. “So, do you think that because all of these bad things happened to Job, that meant he wasn’t a Christian?” He had to stop and think about this one. He knows people suffer who don’t do anything wrong, but the language of Job was clearly pushing against some of his categories.
And thus began a short conversation about bad things happening to good people, good things happening to bad people, the mystery of evil and suffering, and the nature of providence. It was a good talk. I think we were actually able to clarify a few things, and to leave a few others open for future questions and discovery. It’s an amazing thing, to watch kids process the words of the Bible and the language and concepts they come across in church. Perhaps we tend to forget what we affirm theologically—that God can and does speak in the hearts and minds of all kinds of people (including young people), not just those who know or believe as much or in the manner that we know and believe (or think we know and believe). My kids may even relate to and think about God independent of my expertise. Imagine that.
Of course, these pleasing reflections upon the insights of children and their ability to hear and understand the voice of God, inevitably came crashing down to earth. As my wife was finishing up with my daughter in the bathroom, she called out to my son, “N., did you brush your teeth?”
“Not now! I’m too busy with the Bible!!”
This was followed by an enthusiastic exhortation to his sister to repent for her sins.
Sigh. My son, the religious enthusiast.