April 1, 2019
The world that we live in passionately promotes the idea of self-sufficiency. The philosophies of human reason encourage people to love themselves, build themselves up, work hard to get what they want, and if they have strong resolve and diligence, can achieve anything. All of these ideas are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Some might say that these sorts of attitudes can be balanced with Biblical thinking. This is not true. The Bible shows that those who are self-sufficient are considered self-righteous by God. Self-righteousness is one of the chief sins that God hates and that causes condemnation. Though the world might promote self-sufficiency as a healthy human attribute, the Bible speaks of self-sufficiency as evil and wicked. Those who are evil and wicked will receive certain treatment from God. Therefore, it is important to recognize the consequences that God administrates to the wicked so as to ensure we are not walking down the road of self-sufficiency unto destruction.
The testimony of Job shows that Job’s friend Zophar had a good understanding of God’s dealing with wicked people. Zophar was well informed about how God deals with those who are self-sufficient and knew about the dangers that come to those who live trusting in self rather than God. The problem was that Zophar figured Job to be a wicked and self-sufficient man. He was wrong. Job was far from what Zophar described. While Zophar knew how God treats the wicked, and understood the effects and consequences of self-righteousness, his own self-sufficiency caused him to be blind to his foolishness. This shows that, while we might be able to identify what is wrong in others, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness is so subtle that we can conduct ourselves in this wicked manner and not even know. It is very possible, and even very common, for us to assume fault for others, missing the point of our own issues that line up with the faults we declare about others.
Zophar went into great depth to describe the character and effects of self-sufficiency in Job 20:12-29. There, Zophar began by stating that wicked people find their evil to be sweet. In other words, they find joy in doing the things that are contrary to God. The Bible plainly and clearly identifies that which is right in the sight of God. Those who are wicked with self-righteous and self-sufficient attitudes are those who don’t care about God’s standards because of the joy they find living according to their own standards. Zophar understood that these people are effective liars, not just to others, but even to self. They convince themselves and others around them that their personal pursuits are fruitful, good, and pleasing even though God causes a different effect in their hearts and minds. The wicked will often use persuasive words to hide selfish ambitions and greediness so as to gain support for their causes. God knows.
Zophar explained how the Lord deals with this. God causes some interesting things to take place. Those who rely on self to fulfill and gratify themselves are unable to find joy, satisfaction, peace, and genuine fruitful prosperity. The things they consume become the very things that cause destruction. Those who are self-sufficient find joy in certain affections and ambitions, but it is those very affections and ambitions that become poisonous to their lives. It is the consumption of their personal pursuits that drives them into the ground with bitterness, anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction along the way. God ensures that the increase these people might receive is bitter and disgruntling. This causes certain forms of frustration and stress that end up consuming the lives of those who think they can figure things out on their own.
God assures people that those who want to live self-sufficiently will not see streams of flowing rivers and seasons of overflowing honey and cream. Life will not be sunshine and butterflies. The visions of comfort, wealth, prosperity, and joy will not come to those who live without trusting the Lord. Those who think they can live life by their own strength, wisdom, ability, influence, intelligence, resolve, and power will not find true satisfying progress of any kind. God makes sure of this. Even Zophar, a man who was a bad friend and bad comforter, understood these elementary dynamics about God’s treatment of the wicked. He explained that God will cause great frustration for those who trust in self. They will work, but not be able to enjoy the fruit of their labor. They will receive gains from their efforts, but not be able to make use of them with joy. Their joy will simply be consumed with more labor, more headache, more stress, and more frustration.
Those who are self-sufficient will not have quietness in their hearts. This means that there is no contentment. Since the increase of the wicked results in frustration and more labor, the wicked continue to desire more as if consuming more will simplify the labor and the frustration. This becomes a vicious cycle of misery. Thus, the wicked will learn to despise their desires, and go through ideas left and right. Their well-being will not last. The pride that comes from self-sufficiency is just a smoke screen. God ensures that the lives of the self-sufficient become distressful. This distress becomes a magnet for more distress, meaning that bitter circumstances, and bitter people will flock to the increasing internal bitterness.
Zophar spoke confidently about these things because God Himself is the One that causes these things to take place. They can’t be avoided. God does these things to show that there is no hope apart from Him. God desires to show that there is no future in “self.” Apart from God, we can do nothing. There is no light apart from God. There is no wisdom apart from God. There is no ability apart from God. There is no fruit apart from God. There is no hope apart from God. The scriptures teach that our faith in the Lord must be exclusive. We can’t trust in self and God at the same time, especially if we know who God is. Unfortunately, though Zophar knew these truths about God’s dealings with the wicked, he could not recognize his own foolishness. Zophar was speaking to Job as if he was a wicked man. Zophar addressed Job as if he was self-sufficient and his suffering was parallel to the issues that God causes for the self-sufficient. This was not true. Job’s circumstances did not match those that Zophar described. In fact, the character that Zophar described was more parallel to his own attitude. Thus, when we are not humble before the Lord, dependent on Him for ALL things, including our wisdom and knowledge, we will quickly become the self-sufficient people that God opposes. Lord help us to be aware of this natural tendency so as to keep from being blinded by our own self-sufficiency.