Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
“Can a man be of benefit to God?
Can even a wise person benefit him?
What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
What would he gain if your ways were blameless?
The book of Job has helped us identify different traps: success, righteousness, suffering, and logic. None of these things are inherently good or inherently bad. What makes them all similar is their ability to point us inward towards ourselves, or outwards towards God. We can take credit for our own success or give thanks to God for his blessings. We can bask in the glory of our own righteousness or praise the one who is righteousness. We can wallow in our own self-pity or submit our suffering to Him. Our logic can lead us in endless circles or towards the source of all wisdom. A trap is baited and set with a mirror. It leads us away from God.
Eliphaz asks a series of rhetorical questions in the passage above. He reminds Job that God is unchangeable, and that His will is not dependent on our righteousness. God doesn’t operate within the rules of karma. Even the holy contract, the Covenant, established between God and the Israelites doesn’t promise safety from suffering. God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham in exchange for his descendants to circumcise their sons. The new Covenant established by Jesus doesn’t promise safety, either. Jesus promises forgiveness of sins and communion with God shortly before he is led off to the cross and executed.
No, the contract between heaven and earth is not based on a checklist of chores with performance-based bonuses. God is God, and it is through God and by God that we are blessed, become righteous, and endure suffering. A trap is any attempt to replace God with the self. When Eliphaz asks the four questions, he reminds us that God is not swayed by anything we do. His mercy is the product of His own goodness, not ours. His justice is the product of his own righteousness, not ours. Job may ask why so many tragedies have happened, but only God will fully understand. God’s will is perfect, but ineffable. To think that we can alter it in any way is a trap of the self.
When we replace the self with God, we escape the fifth trap.