I’m reading through The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller and thought I’d share my thoughts with you as I go. It’s based on – you guessed it – the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15.
Keller suggests that the story might best be named the parable of the Two Lost Sons. The younger son requests his inheritance while his father is living, which is equivalent to wishing him dead. This is the same thing we do when we crave God’s blessings but not God Himself. Keller refers to this son’s approach as the way of self-discovery. “In this view,” he says, “the world would be a far better place if tradition, prejudice, hierarchical authority, and other barriers to personal freedom were weakened or removed… The person choosing the way of self-discovery says, ‘I’m the only one who can decide what is right or wrong for me. I’m going to live as I want to live and find my true self and happiness that way.'”
Anyone would recognize the sin of the younger brother as he humiliates his family and lives a self-indulgent life. His sin is marked by flagrant defiance, and he is like the “tax collectors and sinners” who were drawn to Jesus.
But I’m led to ask myself – in what ways am I defiant like the younger son? What areas of my life do I seek to wrench away from God’s control? The way to tell is to ask where I stomp my feet when God’s ways conflict with how I want to live and what I feel like doing.
Have I convinced myself I’m a night person because I can be creative after hours and prefer doing that than to rising early in order to prepare for caring for my family? Ouch. That one pins me to the wall. Am I selfishly coveting my time to enjoy doing what I want rather than serving others? Do I seek out the folks who stroke my ego or enjoy the same things I do or make me laugh rather than those who most need friends? Do I honor others in the little things, like preparing what my family members enjoy for meals and serving out the best portions to them rather than myself? It’s incredible to me how tempting it is every day to snag that nice hunk of grilled steak or the piece of salmon I prefer while serving out!
And then I have to ask the harder questions. Am I neglectful or stingy with my time with God, or in my feelings toward others, or in my motivations – even for doing good things? May God have mercy on me, because I am.
And, thankfully, He does.
More on that next time…