In a conversation with God, Satan suggests that Job would turn away from God if he should lose his wealth and good fortune. God agrees to put the matter to a test.
This is a key passage for setting the stage for all that follows. Satan is like a roving ambassador who comes to God to give a report on what he has seen and heard. God boasts about Job, whom God considers to be an outstanding example of what a religious person should be. Satan takes the bait and raises a question about Job’s sincerity and motivation for serving God. Since Job has been gifted with such abundance and a wonderful life, it is no wonder that he serves God. But, says Satan, if you take his good fortune away from him, he will turn against God. Satan believes that the only reason anyone, including Job, worships God and follows God’s commands is for the rewards. This is a very interesting thought. Is Satan right? Even in our day, why do people choose to be followers of God? Is it for rewards, such as good health and even eternal life? Is it possible to love God for God’s own sake and not because of what “I can get out of it?” Can one still love God when all outward signs of God’s care and protection have gone away?
Many readers of Job are troubled by how quickly God responds to Satan’s question and allows Satan to proceed to cause havoc in Job’s life. It is interesting to note that Satan cannot go ahead without God’s permission. The ultimate authority belongs to God, even though evil is allowed to occur. An important and difficult question is “Why does God allow Satan to hurt Job?” There is no easy answer, and, of course, the book does not mean to be an historical account. The book allows hard issues to emerge because they do in human experience. Allowing the questions is necessary in order to be able to address them. Satan has put God in a tough place by his question. If God does not permit Satan to test his theory about the motivation of pious folks like Job, then Satan can say, “You are afraid I might be right by refusing to see if Job will stay faithful after a series of disasters.” If God does allow the testing to take place, his faithful servant Job will be hurt and God’s reputation as a caring and protecting presence will be tarnished.