Job and his “friends” have been going at it for several days now. Job’s friends keep insisting that Job must have done something to deserve his sufferings. Job keeps responding that he is innocent. Based on chapter one, we know that Job is more right than they are.
What we see in chapter 31 (not only here, but especially here), is that Job and his friends agree on one thing anyway: the world is supposed to be fair. They have been saying that the world is fair because anything else would imply that God, the governor of the world, is unjust. Job says that the world is supposed to be fair, but is not. That is the basis of his protest. So, in chapter 31, Job says over and over again, “if I had sinned, my suffering would be acceptable” (verse 5, 7, 9, 13, 16, 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 29, 31, 33, 38, 39). But because he has not committed those sins, his suffering is NOT acceptable.
Job therefore issues a challenge to God: “Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me! O that I had the indictment written against me by my adversary! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me like a crown; I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him” (31:35-37).
Like his friends, Job assumes the world is supposed to be fair. Unlike them, Job believes he is innocent of any wrong-doing. So Job calls God to account. He demands the right to prove his innocence. Then, presumably, God will correct the injustice done to Job.
Job turns out to be wrong, as we will read in a few days. But the power of the book depends on us taking seriously Job’s challenge, and the assumption on which it is based: the assumption that the world is supposed to be fair and God is supposed to make sure that it stays that way. It is an assumption that Job shares with the friends he has been battling for nearly thirty chapters! It is also an assumption that most of us make most of the time.Fr. Harvey