It’s of interest to me how much good in Scripture and in life depends on governance. The ancients held that justice was the greatest gift from the gods—that without a settled order in society or in a life, nothing good could be achieved. A settled order rested on recognized authority and the application of agreed-upon standards and rules. Once justice had achieved civil order in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, for example, the seat of government in London could extend generosity, and bounty could flow.
This was the argument, at least. The ancients recognized two natures of justice, political and personal. Personal justice had to do with the right ordering of all the parts of the person in a harmonious way. Justice was the proper functioning and subordination of the parts to achieve an intended unity. Governance was essential to happiness, both in a political state and in the state of individual man. Disciplined order was at the base of everything else.
The virtue of temperance bordered on justice, the larger idea. Temperance is the unity of one’s faculties, or self-governance. So it is in 2 Peter 1 that faith, virtue and knowledge feed into temperance and its offshoot patience in verse 6. Godliness, brotherly kindness and charity follow.
Governance in Colossians 3
We can see the same progression from just order to affection in Paul’s instructions on the family in Colossians 3. He has laid a context calling for putting off sensual sins and those associated with anger and then lying and for putting on the “new man” with its “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you.” And then comes charity, “the bond of perfectness” and the rule of “the peace of God . . . in your hearts” with thankfulness—all qualities sweetening the duties described in verses 18–22.
Then Paul moves down the track of relational responsibilities within the executive order of the family as intended by God. The order is important. First is the obedience requirement, the concern of justice. Wives are to “submit to their husbands as it is fit in the Lord.” Then is the duty of love. Husbands are to love their wives and not be harsh toward them. Then back to the obedience obligation. Children are to obey their parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Then back again to love. Fathers are not to provoke their children to anger, discouraging them from obeying cheerfully, hurting their spirit. First is just order, then love; then again just order, and finally again love. Notice the importance throughout of self-control.
Governance in the Life of Job
Governance is at the center of everything good in life. It requires humility to accept an inferior position and love to exercise the responsibilities entailed by that position. The scheme is simple and beautiful, but how very high the bar for frail human creatures that we are.
I see glimmerings of it in that great man Job. What we know of him resonates in the background of the epistle of James, not only in the reference to “the patience of Job” in 5:11 but also to the opening exhortation to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” whose intended outcome is patience. Trials can abound in the best of lives, Christian and not, and we have encouragement and instruction in Scripture to turn them to blessing.
What impresses me especially in the character of this great man is the combination of firmness and gentleness. His wife, having seen their work of years in their household and holdings and children swept away suddenly by cascading calamities, cries out to him to curse God and die. Job rebukes her sharply but then I think tries to draw her back. She has jeopardized her soul. He reminds her of something she should have learned by then. “Shall we receive from the Lord good and not evil also?”
Goodness was a summing virtue to the ancient thinkers. It embraced both justice and its complement mercy. So it is in Scripture. The Psalmist writes of his Lord, that “[He] is good: his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations” (100:5). His goodness first regards due right, as the old legal theorists put it, and then brings in mercy.
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Savior’s brow.
His head with radiant glory’s crowned,
His lips with grace o’er flow.
His lips with grace o’er flow.
The tandem appears in the ending details of our story. In the final count Job had seven sons and three daughters. “And he called the name of the first, Jemima [dove], and the name of the second Kezia [cinnamon], and the name of the third Keren-happuch [container of antimony, a highly prized eyeshadow],” according to the note in my Study Bible. Majestic sweetness sat enthroned upon Job’s brow as well as on the forehead of his Savior God.