What exactly characterizes the “righteous” in the righteous rich?
Job can be identified with the righteous rich. He is described in Job 1:1 as “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Consider Job’s wealth:
- He had seven sons and three daughters.
- He had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and many servants.
- It seems that each son had a house and held a feast each day on a revolving schedule.
Satan acknowledges that God has blessed Job and given him increasing possessions (Job 1:10).
Satan’s question, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”, leads to his challenge that if God were to take away Job’s blessings, Job would curse God.
How was Job able to live up to the words “righteous rich” so closely?
Job 29 and 31 hint at Job’s righteousness. Job is being charged by others with hypocrisy and sin. Job responds in many ways, perhaps none more haunting than in Job 29:7-17.
The passage describes how people were in awe of Job whenever he went out in public. They were in awe because of how Job treated the poor. Job 29:7-10 says,
When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square; the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood. The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate. For when the ear heard, it called me blessed; and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me.
What exactly did people hear and see that allowed them to be in awe of Job and call him blessed? Job 29:12-17 tells us:
Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know. And I broke the jaws of the wicked, and snatched the prey from his teeth.
Job cared for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. He was an advocate for justice and righteousness.
He must have helped many people. How many blind people would you have to help to call yourself “eyes to the blind”? How many lame people would you have to help to call yourself “feet to the lame”? Likewise, father to the needy?
In Job 31:16-22, Job calls judgment, condemnation, and calamity on himself if he had done these things:
If I have kept the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not shared it (but from my youth he grew up with me as a father, and from infancy I guided her), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or that the needy had no covering…if he has not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have lifted up my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had support in the gate, let my shoulder fall from the socket, and my arm be broken off at the elbow.
Later in Job 31:24-40 Job calls similar judgment on himself if he “put my confidence in gold, and called fine gold my trust, if I have gloated because my wealth was great….[or] rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy….[or if] the alien has…lodged outside….if I have eaten [my land’s] fruit without money, or have caused its owners to lose their lives.”
Job was very rich but also very generous, not just in a general way, like giving money, but with specific tangible help.
Christian Wright says this in summary about Job’s riches:
He had used it generously (Job 31:16-20); he had not placed ultimate security in it (Job 31:24-25); he had put it hospitably at the service of others (Job 31:31-32); and he had not gained it through merciless exploitation of his own workers (Job 31:38-40).
Job remained wealthy despite his extreme generosity. Even after he was virtually wiped out, God granted him even greater wealth than before – two-fold. Job 42:12-13 says,
And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning, and he had 14,000 sheep, and 6,000 camels, and 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. And he had seven sons and three daughters.
Job was definitely in the 1 percent, and it was so because God blessed him. Thus the rich can be righteous, but only if they live with similar priorities to Job.