Job 1:1, 2:1-10
1There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
1One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” 4Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. 5But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. 9Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.
This collection of Scriptures from this week’s lectionary readings is quite timely and fitting, especially given the recent machinations of the U.S. Senate. With all the ‘he-said-she-said’ exchanges and the legislators’ speechmaking, many of the public are in a quandary about the identity of those speaking with integrity, or perhaps even wondering if integrity has left the chamber altogether.
Dating back to 1789, their original Oath of Office was just a single sentence: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” Later in the 1860s were added the now familiar phrases such as “true faith and allegiance” and “faithfully discharge the duties.”
The discussion of whether our politicians and the many who operate in that sphere are consistent in their dealings with this oath we leave to another place and hour. However, as we scan across our society we see lack of integrity, a lack that is particularly severe in many places.
This lack does not mean that by nature integrity has become less necessary. The need for integrity has never diminished. Indeed, the swift changes in technology and complex mixtures of cultures in this era heighten the need for integrity. As long as people gather there are politics and as long as there are politics integrity will be the truss and footing which keeps it from collapse.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Avoiding that silence is a good beginning toward integrity. Yet, at times our silence may be most suitable in the cacophony of voices. Recall the calm spirit of our Lord when he was brought before Pilate: “But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed” (Matthew 27:14). And Job gives us a similar example of a man who “persists in his integrity” (2:3): to that point “Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).
How can we know the way of integrity when there are so many conflicting opinions, temptations to compromise on the truth or even disguise our motives? What is integrity? In YHWH’s dialogue with the devil the word “integrity” is from the Hebrew verb tamam. In its broadest sense it means to be complete. The Book of Job begins by telling us, “That man was blameless…” The noun tam can also be rendered “perfect.”
Paradoxically, we can even use our supposed blamelessness, our integrity as a scorecard for self-righteousness or in a quest for perfectionism. Both were to become Job’s faltering when later he used his integrity as a barb while shadowboxing with God. Job took his integrity and held it up as a badge to the Almighty: “Though I am blameless [tam], he [Yahweh] would prove me perverse” (Job 9:20). How then can we re-gain wholeness of being and wholeheartedness for the true, the good and the beautiful?
1Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. 2Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind. 3For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. 4I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; 5I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. 6I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD, 7singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 8O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides. 9Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, 10those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. 11But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) spoke of the three transcendentals in his Summa Theologica. He named them integritas, consonantia and claritas (First Part, Question 39, Article 8). Integritas is wholeness or the true. Consonantia is proportionality or the good. Claritas is radiance or the beautiful.
These can be observed in objects or in nature, but how much more delightful it is when we see these three in persons, or when we see them in ourselves. Then the three transcendentals become more than attributes of a thing. They become virtues.
We re-gain wholeness of being not by trying to vindicate ourselves, but by first bringing that desire as a prayer to the only One who can truly vindicate. “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,” David prayed. His praying is coupled with reliance on the One who vindicates: “…and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering” (26:1).
The words, “HERR, ich habe lieb die Stätte deines Hauses und den Ort, da deine Ehre wohnt” are inscribed above an exterior entrance of St. Michael’s Church in Bienenbüttel. This is Psalm 26:8, “O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.” Where the Lord is, there is the true, the good, the beautiful. With him is the integritas we need, the wholeness we long for.
In the Old Covenant era the worshippers went up to the house of the Lord and were assured by his presence there for that was “the place where your glory abides.” In the New Covenant era the worshippers are the house of the Lord both individually and collectively. The psalmist prayed that the Lord would vindicate him for “my integrity.” When we are dwelling with the Lord and when we are made the house in which the Lord dwells, then his integrity re-fashions us, overcoming our lack thereof by filling us with his own. His integritas becomes our integritas.
1O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. 6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, 7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Job overlooked this and in the end had to repent of his vanity. God ascribed integrity to Job at the first, but that integrity was not Job’s to take as entirely his own. In the middle of the Book of Job we find gems scattered that express longing for a Mediator. The Mediator is what Job needed and surely, in Christ Job has a mediator and we have a mediator who will make all things whole. Just the expectation that we can be made whole can draw us away from the superficial, the impulsive and the faithless.
The poetry of Psalm 8 beautifully sings about man’s high estate with a double theme. On the one hand, Psalm 8 exalts the Lord for placing man in a high status of lord over the earth. On the other hand, Psalm 8 also announces the presence of the Son of Man who is Lord over the earth. This is the Lord who came in our flesh to restore humanity’s integrity to himself and to the earth. We are broken, but he makes us whole.
The double theme in Psalm 8 works out from man to the Son of Man. The gratitude and praise about man’s gifted place in the cosmos, then lifts to a higher key when sung out in the life of the Messiah.
Speaking about mankind in Psalm 8 we hear, “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet…” (8:5-6). Then in Hebrews speaking about the Messiah we hear, “You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet” (2:7-8). His life of integrity is joined in solidarity with his people; as they are emptied of the false fulness of their pride, they are joined to the fullness of his humanity.
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? 7You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, 8subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
Blaise Pascal believed God created man to exist in the mid-point between the infinitely minute on one side and the abyss of the immense on the other. From that vantage point, Pascal thought man could be overwhelmed with wonder and also in the ideal spot survey and enjoy what God has made.
But mankind, like the Lilliputians, is pre-occupied with things that matter most to himself. The turn to the self, the turn inward is an obstacle to integrity. We cannot measure ourselves by ourselves in order to become the full measure of ourselves. This is how the self shrinks.
The Son of Man has come into our small world bearing in himself the “exact imprint” of the true, the good and the beautiful. Like Job, who at last saw how small he was we can likewise be made whole after the visio Dei. This is what the theologians call sanctification. We cannot sanctify ourselves by ourselves. We will not become a polis of integrity by ourselves. We must seek the “imprint” of the Son of Man on our humanity.