Tobit- Religious Self-Betterment vs. The Gospel

Tobit 3:1-6

Unlike Job, who rebuked his wife for accusing God of being unjust, Tobit wept because of his wife’s words and because she seemed to be correct about God’s injustice. The story identifies Tobit as walking in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of his life (1:3). Yet, he was now blind and unable to work. Tobit was too righteous to see so much distress if God was truly just- repaying good for good and evil for evil. This was the popular doctrine of God’s justice during the intertestamental period and a popular view among the Pharisees and scribes in the First Century A.D. even though we see no doctrine like this in the Old or New Testaments.

In verse 2, Tobit confesses God’s righteous and just nature. In verses 3-6, he uses God’s righteous and just nature to try convincing God to act justly with him. There is too much distress in his life, so Tobit is asking God to put him out of his misery. There are a few other doctrinal statements we see in Tobit’s confession and plea through these verses:

  • Tobit believed he was being punished for his own sins and his ancestors’ sins (v. 3).
  • The exile was the fault of the ancestors (v. 4).
  • God is right in His judgments against the people because the nation as a whole did not keep God’s commandments (v. 5).
  • Though he is willing to suffer the consequences as part of Israel for Israel’s sin, Tobit believes that what he is enduring personally is underserved (v. 6).
  • For God to act in accordance with His just nature, He would need to release Tobit from Tobit’s distress (v. 6).

Here, we see the most basic Judaizer, Gnostic, Roman, and Arminian doctrine well before the Judaizers, Gnostics, Roman Catholics, and Arminians formally emerged. Be good enough and do the right stuff and God will deal well with you. In Tobit, God is described as affirming this doctrine, which does not agree with either the Old or New Testaments (cf. 3:17). In contrast, the Old and New Testaments teach that people are unable to be righteous and have a great need to repent before God. The most popular false Gospel throughout human history has been some religious self-betterment program, whereas the Biblical Gospel calls sinners to repent and be forgiven in Christ alone.

This is the end of Tobit’s monologue, and we recognize why those who subscribe to these apocryphal works or whose theology is influenced by the apocryphal works tend to have some confessions that disagree with the verbally inspired text. This was certainly the case with the scribes and Pharisees. Again, we realize why Jesus spent so much time correcting this strange doctrine. It is also easier for us to see that these doctrinal undercurrents, which influenced the Judaizers and Gnostics later in the New Testament story, were present long before the Judaizers and Gnostics.

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