No Pockets in a Shroud

Shroud 02Job was a wealthy man, but in a course of quick and awful events he lost it all.  Everything — children, livestock, servants, and property.

Job’s response to the loss was to say, “I was born naked, and I will leave this world naked,” Job 1:21.  More modern versions of this saying are, “There are no pockets in a shroud,” or “There’s no U-Haul trailer behind a hearse.”

The people who could have been most consoling and helpful to Job weren’t.  “Curse God and die,” was the best advice his wife could muster.  Eliphaz, one of his best friends said, “Look, innocent people don’t suffer like you now are.  It’s time to get your act together and return to God.’  His other three friends said similar unhelpful things.

Whatever pleasure he had experienced before as a result of his wealth and standing were gone.  Job experienced Hurricane Katrina, the Colorado floods, and 9-11 in the catastrophe that engulfed him.   He was stripped of all external privilege and wealth and had nothing but his thoughts and his painful boils.

There were moments of despair when Job wanted to die.  “I curse the day I was born,” he grieved.  There was no accomplishment or possession that could deliver him from his torment.  No pill that could take away his pain.  No human power that could restore his loss.

Job was not the only person to think about the weakness and vulnerability that wealth actually creates in us.

In his book, First Circle, one Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s characters says, ““…you are strong only as long as you don’t deprive people of everything. For a person you’ve taken everything from is no longer in your power. He’s free all over again.”

Paul told Timothy that wealth can be a trap when not tempered by contentment.

Job, Solzhenitsyn, and Paul all understood the power that this world can have over our lives.  They understood that the only true antidote to the vulnerability that the world creates is God.  Jesus said that it is impossible to love God and money (mammon).

The reality of wealth’s lie is seen most keenly at death (or when a cataclysm takes it all away).  It is then we see clearly that there are no pockets in a shroud.  As Paul said, “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

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