Anna and I have been reading through the book of Job. It can be tough. From Chapters 3 to 31, after intense personal suffering, Job sits in mourning with three of his friends. How do you make sense life, and hope, and God when your world has completely disintegrated around you?
Job’s friends offer advice. They encourage, they reason, and they rebuke. Job kicks back. He can’t make sense of it. He is overwhelmed in suffering and grief. As the discussion unfolds, each party becomes more judgmental and the discussion becomes more adversarial. It ends, not with comfort, but animosity.
This week we read Chapter 8. Bildad the Shuhite offers his first words of advice. It’s a great chapter. Everything Bildad says is true. Indeed, everything Bildad says is said elsewhere in the Bible, and I have said similar things many times in the course of my ministry. But Bildad is one of Job’s false comforters. What’s wrong?
Firstly, always consider your audience before opening your mouth. Just because something is true, doesn’t mean that it will always be helpful.
Secondly, give thought to your motives. I’m sure Bildad wanted to offer comfort, but perhaps his advice was framed in a way that affirmed his own righteousness and demonstrated his superior wisdom. Not smart, Bildad. Not smart.
Thirdly, followers of Jesus must speak the truth, but only in love (1 Corinthians 13:1, Ephesians 4:15). There is a time and place for every true word. Guard your tongue and think of the other before you sprout your wisdom and prove yourself to be a fool.