“IF WE RECEIVE GOOD FROM THE HAND OF GOD, WHY SHOULD WE NOT ALSO RECEIVE EVIL?” A Reflection on Job 2:1-13 by St. Gregory the Great.


“If we receive good from the hand of God,
why should we not also receive evil?”

The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great


I am the Lord, unrivalled,
Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though he himself was outwardly a corruptible body, which is why he says We have this treasure in earthen vessels. In Job, then, the earthenware vessel felt his gaping sores externally; while this interior treasure remained unchanged. Outwardly he had gaping wounds but that did not stop the treasure of wisdom within him from welling up and uttering these holy and instructive words: If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? By the good he means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he is suffering from in the present. Of those evils the Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah,

I form the light and create the dark.
I make good fortune and create calamity,
it is I, the Lord, who do all this.
I form the light, and create the dark, because when the darkness of pain is created by blows from without, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within.
  I make good fortune and create calamity, because when we wrongly covet things which it was right for God to create, they are turned into scourges and we see them as evil. We have been alienated from God by sin, and it is fitting that we should be brought back to peace with him by the scourge. As every being, which was created good, turns to pain for us, the mind of the chastened man may, in its humbled state, be made new in peace with the Creator.
  We should especially notice the skilful turn of reflection he uses when he gathers himself up to meet the persuading of his wife, when he says If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? It is a great consolation to us if, when we suffer afflictions, we recall to remembrance our Maker’s gifts to us. Painful things will not depress us if we quickly remember also the gifts that we have been given. As Scripture says, In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity.
  Whoever, in the moment of receiving God’s gifts but forgets to fear possible affliction, will be brought low by his presumption. Equally, whoever in the moment of suffering fails to take comfort from the gifts which it has been his lot to receive, is thrown down from the steadfastness of his mind and despairs.
  The two must be united so that each may always have the other’s support, so that both remembrance of the gift may moderate the pain of the blow and fear of the blow may moderate exuberance at receiving the gift. Thus the holy man, to soothe the depression of his mind amidst his wounds, weighs the sweetness of the gifts against the pains of affliction, saying If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?

Job 2:1-13 (NRSVCE)

One day the heavenly beings[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them to present himself before the LordThe Lord said to Satan,[c] “Where have you come from?” Satan[d]answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan,[e] “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.” Then Satan[f] answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives.[g] But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan,[h] “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan[i] 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. Job[j] took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse[k]God, and die.” 10 But 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.

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13 They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

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