When We Assume | Retributive Theology


If your children have sinned against him,
    he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. — Job 8:4

So now we move to the counsel of Job's next friend. His name is Bildad. And after reading this verse, I bet you wonder if Bildad is really a friend.

Here are three things we notice about Bildad and his position. First, he will build on the opinion Eliphaz supports, which is that "righteous people don't suffer." Second, he is far less sympathetic to Job than Eliphaz. Third, he's way more direct in how he states things. Bildad's point of view is that God punished his children for their sin and is now punishing Job for his sin. And that Job needs to repent so that God will save him and restore his previous blessing.

His conclusion is, of course, wrong.

The theological name given to this position is Retribution Theology. It's the belief that one gets what one deserves. Think of it like Christian karma. It presumes a connection between good people and good things and bad people and bad things. Thus, this type of theology concludes that God rewards good people with good things and punishes bad people with bad things in this life. For example, if you get Covid, in this life, it’s an indication that God is punishing you for something bad you’ve done. On the other hand, if you become wealthy in this life, it’s an indication that God is blessing you for the good things you have done.

But there are all kinds of problems with applying this understanding of retributive theology and justice to the good and bad things that happen to us in this life. One problem is this — it's that bad things happen to good people. This is the lesson of Job's life. This was also the lesson of Christ's life. And sometimes this is the lesson of our life. Sometimes bad things happen to all people.

In fact, at the end of this life, there will be retributive justice, and it comes with some very bad news. It's found in Roman 3:23, which reads, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In other words, at the end of this life, we will all pay retribution for our sin because we are all sinful and fall short. The very wrong assumption of retributive theology is that we can be good enough to earn or deserve a blessing from God in this life and thus at the end of this life. This is just not possible. The only thing we deserve or earn is punishment for our sin. Even Job is not going to be able to earn his way back to a blessing from God.

But here is the good news. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin, buying us back from the retribution we deserve at the end of this life. Because eventually, at the end of this life, there will be retribution for wrongdoing. God will both punish sin and reward righteousness. But his retribution for sin was paid for in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the end, we are all sinners who need redemption by God, who was willing to pay our retribution for sin so we can spend eternity with him. Now that's good news.

Today God will redeem you from the retribution you deserve. The bible says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9). If you want to make that confession for the first time, let me know, and I will pray with you and for you.

ASK THIS: Do you need to be bought back from your sin?

DO THIS: Share how I can pray for you below. (Share in the comments below).

PRAY THIS: God, I need you to forgive me and buy me back.

PLAY THIS: Redeemed.


short | practical | biblical
Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

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Eddie Ackerman

I am flying back to Minnesota, from Virginia, on Friday. Prayers for safe travels are always appreciated.

Matt Smith

Pray for me that I will accept what Jesus did on the cross for me, knowing I can do nothing to earn it (pride).

David J

Please pray that I am slow to speak and only use words to build people up and not tear down.


thank you, I will try to understand where my anger is coming from with God’s help

Cory B

Please pray that I may be slow to speak and when I do, use words to build people up.
Also, pray that I not judge people. Many times the two go hand in hand.


I would love a prayer for my family’s safe, healthy and abundant future to be a blessing to others!

Phil Green

This study on Job is some of the best I’ve heard you do. It means a lot to me. Thank you and keep it up!

Alex Coon

I used to struggle heavily with legalism. I had too much of the philosophy that I must repay the debt of sin like a repay Earthly debt. I still get that in small doses, but I know deep down nothing can rob me of God’s love and fellowship, especially that His sovereignty means that none of the sins I’ve committed or will unknowingly commit won’t catch Him off guard.


Please pray that I will continue in his strength, on the path back I am traveling.


Sam check out Psalm 121:1-2


Reading Jim’s reply below I can’t help but think of 2 Timothy 3:16, ALL scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching……. So who are we to pick and choose want we want to hear from God. I did a study on Job many years ago and had a hard time understanding it and then the story unfolded in my life so I was appreciative I had an understanding of bad things happening to good people and how God does allow this in some of our lives. Enough said I’m enjoying this study again some 20 years later


my sin is anger…I cannot control it and I lash out at times.
Jesus help me to leave my anger at your feet and control my outbursts today.


Rick I dealt with anger many years and lashing out verbally to my wife for no fault of hers. My anger was a symptom of a an issue , my CPTSD (complex ptsd). When I was able to diagnose the cause of my symptom, I was able to find healing through the hope I have in Jesus. In 2018 my wife and launched a 501c3 and I help those who struggle with issues related mostly to a trauma they suffered. Until you can diagnose the cause of the symptom of your anger, the enemy will use it . If you want to talk further with me Vince knows how to get in touch with me. Prayers my friend.

Jim Adair

But that’s not what the writer/author stated at the beginning of the book! He plainly stated that Job was given both God’s blessing and His protection. He took those away and allowed Satan to do his worst!
I reject this book. It’s not Canon as far as I am concerned for exactly the reason that you seem to be arguing, namely that the book of Job supports this notion of Retribution Theology! Again, it does it at the beginning and then it does it again at the end when Job gets his wealth and prosperity back!
Now, is there something to be gleaned from this book, even if I refuse to take it literally? Yes, there is, but you seem to agree that we can’t really take this book as written. We have to be “creative” in the way we interpret it. It’s a bridge too far for me, though. I reject the premise of the book. The God I believe in would NEVER do what the writer of this book says He did! He made a bet with Satan! He was purely arbitrary (evil even) in the way He treated Job. If God did what the writer says He did, then God was WRONG to do what He did. And He owes Job an apology for abusing him this way!
Finally, explain how the writer could possibly know that God did this!? Answer, the writer could not possibly know this. It is purely conjecture on the part of the writer. And as such, I reject the writer’s basic premise, if I am expected to take the book literally. Now, if it’s OK for me to take this as a parable of some sort, figuratively, then maybe I can accept it, but otherwise, this book is officially rejected!
I’m no fan of a few other books/passages, but the book of Job is at the top of my list of books that deserve to be re-evaluated in terms of inclusion in the Canon. Just because it’s a Judaic book of the Torah does not mean that Christians have to adopt it as Canon!
But once again, I agree with the gist of your devotion. I just don’t think it squares with a plain English reading of the text.


Well I can say as we started this book study on Job, I have always had a difficult time excepting the fact that God gave authority to satan and asked satan “have you considered My servant Job” it always seems hard for me me accept a righteous God who loves mankind and provides redemption through our Lord Jesus would turn over authority to satan and even tell satan “he is yours” just a theology I’ve always had a hard time understanding and excepting

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