Human beings have always had a tendency to judge people based on their circumstances. We see a homeless person under a bridge and we wonder how lazy or crazy he had to be to wind up there. We see a corporate executive who brings home a seven figure salary and we wonder who he stepped on to get there. We see a person whose spouse just left them and we wonder what they did to drive their spouse away. Hundreds of other examples exist. Every day, we engage in this behavior, judging people from a very superficial look at their circumstances. Even the wisest and godliest among us do it. And then we complain about it when we are on the receiving end of that judgment.
The book of Job is a very long, detailed account of how Job was judged in just that way. For reasons that weren't revealed to the people involved, God allowed Job to lose everything in a single day. Job lost his fortune and his family in one swift stroke and then lost his health as well. The only thing that Job retained was a wife, who told him to curse God and die, and three friends. These three friends, very admirably, sat silently with Job for three days while he mourned the death and devastation that had struck him. But then they spoke up, urging Job to confess the great sin he had committed which had prompted God to take everything away. To the reader, of course, the great irony is that Job was struck with devastation not because Job was a great sinner but because Job was so faithful to God. But for 34 chapters, Job's friends accuse Job of sin while Job maintains his innocence and pleads for God to reveal his reasons for such destruction.
The most powerful part of the story for me, are the last five chapters when God responds, first, to Job and then to Job's friends. God spends the substance of four of those chapters pointing out a human being's inability to comprehend the ways of God while never giving Job answers for why he was made to suffer. The response is enough for Job. The very fact that God was speaking to Job was enough and the experience allowed Job to experience God in a new way. "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes" (Job 42:5, NLT). But then God turns to Job's judgmental friends and expresses his anger at them for their words to Job about God while reaffirming Job's righteousness, insisting that they will only be acceptable to God once Job prays and sacrifices on their behalf.
We know the rest of the story. Job's fortune and family again grow and he ends up with twice as much as he had before. But the lessons of the story are clear. 1) You never know why God allows you to go through terrible hardship; sometimes God allows it because you are righteous not because you are sinful. And 2) Never judge someone based on their circumstances. We can only tell so much about a person by looking at their circumstances. Sometimes, people are directly responsible for their circumstances and other times they have no control over them and rarely do we know which is which.
So the next time you see someone's circumstances (even your own) and begin to make assumptions about them, stop. Don't judge based on circumstances. Look at a person's character and deeds and maintain your own integrity. In the end, God and God alone can judge a person. Don't try to take God's place.