The Book of Job as a Pastoral Parable

Rather than focus on the explosive religious issues of the day, I thought I would write about the importance of providing pastoral care. Often times, we hear that providing such care is usually the “job” of the professional clergy. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Mirroring God’s love and compassion is a responsibility we all share. I personally know of a number of clergy and non-clergy who find this particular precept difficult because it often forces us to  confront and face our own insecure sense of mortality. However, such a self-awareness is necessary if we are going to make our contribution toward bettering the world we live in. Like Abraham, we must learn to respond to the problem of human suffering with the word: hineni – Here I am. . . . How can I help? God calls upon us all to behave as shepherds toward one another.

According to rabbinic tradition, the entire book of Job is a parable about pastoral care. For many years, I have personally find this insight very illuminating—especially if we interpret the Jobian drama in light of the principles found in Psalm 23.

In terms of providing care that is pastoral, the story about Job’s suffering (or any human being), represents a spiritual challenge to the family, friends, and community. The Bible does not subscribe to a belief in fatalism. The existence of the poor and needy is a spiritual problem for any just community. The way we respond to suffering defines and reveals the depth of our own spirituality and faith. The imagery of Psalm 23 provides a spiritual way good people can respond to the problem of suffering in their communities. Here are several ways how the pastoral imagery of Psalm 23 might serve as a praxis for how helping caregivers can become shepherds to those who are experiencing loss and a sense of abandonment. In the Jobian story, the pastoral imagery of Psalm 23 was absent in the way Job’s caregivers related to him. Continue reading “The Book of Job as a Pastoral Parable”