Tobit- Religion That Causes Despair

Tobit 8:4-21

When Sarah’s parents leave, Tobias instructs Sarah to get out of bed and pray with him. Their prayer is exactly the type of prayer we see condemned throughout Scripture. Tobias and Sarah bargain with God. They are concerned about their own wills rather than God’s. They try to persuade God to be a certain way and do a certain thing by telling God who He is as if He does not know what He is doing or how to represent His own character in His work. This sort of prayer contradicts Scripture’s churning and Christ’s instruction in His Sermon on the Mount—“Pray like this… Your will be done,” referring to the Father’s will.

Once again in Tobit, we see the sort of vain religiosity that Christ needed to correct during His public bodily ministry on this earth. Once again, we see the tendency of popular religion and self-centered Christianity. It’s all about me. It’s about what I can get from God. I don’t love Christ; I merely love what I may get from Christ… In reality, Christ is exalted, the Father is glorified, and the Father’s will is done. Let us not think too highly of ourselves. We are free from that, and there is great joy in that freedom because it lacks worry and stress about what we must do to get our way or meet our own preferences.

Raguel, Sarah’s father, instructed his servants to dig two graves just in case the demon killed Tobias and Sarah. Remember, Sarah was never actually in danger. In this story, Asmodeus, the demon, only murdered the men Sarah would marry. The author(s) does this to draw a dichotomy between what he perceives to be righteous living and what he perceives to be unrighteous living. Righteous living, which we have learned is not so in the Biblical account, involves keeping God’s Law so that God will answer prayers. Unrighteous living assumes the worst. Raguel is assuming the worst.

This is also the way worldly, self-centered religion operates and is contrary to God’s Scripture.

After the maid discovered Tobias and Sarah both alive, Raguel dashes to cover up his mis-preparation. This is comic relief, though it’s difficult for 21st Century Americans to recognize. If we were watching this on television, it would present like a sitcom. This is the last-minute Christmas-Eve dinner on Christmas With the Kranks. Raguel spent his time digging graves instead of preparing the post-wedding feast. He spent his time despairing instead of celebrating. What a commentary even on our own culture. If God is truly good, we always have more reason to celebrate than despair. We always have more reason to praise than condemn. There are always more positives than negatives. We simply have to look. When we seek out reasons to despair, doubtless we will find them. When we seek out reasons to celebrate, doubtless we will find them—especially for the people of God.

Self-centered religion always brings despair, criticism, and condemnation because we are worried about getting our way and seeing things we feel we need to see. This is what Tobit presents us with. Christ-centered living always brings celebration and freedom because we have denied ourselves and trust God as providential, sovereign, and good. This is what Scripture presents us with.

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