Make Option 02:
In the lecture “Wisdom,” I suggest that the book of Ecclesiastes frequently “sets the bait” of conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8; 7:1–13) in order to “spring the trap,” confronting the reader with a dissenting wisdom that subverts that conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8 is surrounded by 2:1–26; 3:9–22; Eccles 7:1–14a is followed by 7:14b–29). Write an original composition that uses modern examples of conventional wisdom to “set the trap” for a dissenting perspective that subverts the conventional wisdom. Some examples of conventional wisdom that may prove useful:
- “God never gives us anything we can’t handle”
- “If you feel God is absent from your life…He’s not the one who moved!” (It’s hard to find online examples without getting all the “he’s not the one” romance tip sites, but I know this is a common churchy phrase.)
- “Don’t tell God about your big problems. Tell your problems about your big God!” (Joel Osteen, in a Tweet since deleted.)
- “God doesn’t make mistakes”
- “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Remember, your goal is to “fool” your reader (at least briefly) into assenting to such conventional wisdom, before surprising the reader by subverting the conventional wisdom with a dissenting perspective.
In a few follow-up paragraphs, explain to your reader how the biblical examples serve as templates for you. Describe briefly, citing course materials, the ways that conventional and dissenting wisdom function (sometimes called “speculative wisdom”) in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.
“This is all in God’s Plan; God will take care of you”
Recently, I spoke with someone who had just lost her husband of 40 years. She and I spoke and she explained to me that she is angry with God. I asked her why and she said “because he took my husband from me!” Obviously, my response to her was “This is all in God’s plan; God will take care of you!” This made her feel visibly better and she was finally able to accept her husband’s death and move on. We also sang all five stanzas of “God will take care of you.”
As a Christian American, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone utter this phrase at funerals, deathbeds, when someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or any time a negative life event happens. We are often reminded of scripture that says: God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2). Cancer does not fall into any of those categories. Losing a loved one does not fall into any of those categories. All of these things we “blame” God for do not fall into the categories of good, pleasing, and perfect. However, we like to blame God when things do not go the way we hope, expect, or plan.
I once read a book that explained that Heaven is a place of “no more.” What the author meant in this statement is that Heaven is a place of no more (fill in the blank). For example, No more suffering.
When I look at this through the lens of the book of Job, it makes sense. Job’s desire was to blame God, however, the adversary was the one who was testing Job. Also, Job was allowed to be mad at God and question God. His friends challenged them on this… they felt his actions were wrong. God is silent for time, and then lays out the account of why God is blameless and the strong one. In this, Job was able to be wise by grappling with the harsh reality of what God had “allowed” and he was restored. The friends were punished. Bandstra discusses this in the reading for this week. He states that Job is one who has a hard time and could not perceive the things that had happened to him. Once God speaks to Job, Job never gets a full explanation of why the events occurred, however he is given a new family and more wealth than he had ever had. Bandstra discusses this concept and speaks about the idea that this could be a metaphor for the suffering one encounters when they sin and the retribution God has on the person. However, Bandstra also discusses that the story could have been using Job to reference the nation of Israel and narrate the story they were going through (he refers to Habel for this). However, ultimately Bandstra explains that this text is an excellent example of the theology of retribution. He looks at the idea behind the theology in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, as well as Job and makes the statement that retribution is not the only nor most important factor in human-divine relations.
In summary, how did I respond to the freshly widowed woman? I told her that it is acceptable to be angry and wrestle with God. It is Ok to not be OK. I told her to look at the Book of Job; someone who has had everything taken away from him and at the end is rewarded for his loyalty and faith in God. I explained to her that sometimes our faithfulness is rewarded and sometimes it is not, and we as Christians have to be okay with that. And lastly, by questioning God, we gain wisdom, peace, and restoration about whatever is troubling us.