So, last week I just finished reading Tim Keller’s book, “The Prodigal God.” This book has been on my “to read” list for quite a while, and after Jared mentioned to me last week that his sermon for our campus this Sunday is going to be in some part based upon this book, I decided to take some time to read it. And am I glad I did. It really rocked my understanding of several things.
Basically, in this book, Keller (who’s a pastor of a 6,000 member church in Manhattan) takes the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 and absolutely turns it on its head. Most of the time, we spend any time analyzing that story talking about the son that took his inheritance, went away, blew it all, and came back, only to discover his father extending the hand of open fellowship to him. We do this for good reason; it’s a key part of the story. But Keller’s point in this book is that really, there are two lost sons: the son who went away and came back and also the older son; the one who never left. This son did all the right things; he did what his father asked, he never left home. However, in the end of the story, we discover that by refusing to come in and celebrate the recovery of his lost younger brother that it’s the older son who’s really lost.
I think this book hit me square between the eyes because it captures a spiritual principle that I believe God has been teaching me over the past several months, and that’s that God doesn’t owe me anything. Keller’s point in this whole book is that the sin of both sons in this story is the same. They both wanted to take control of their lives and get what they wanted or felt they deserved instead of what the father wanted for them. The younger son chose to do this just by doing his own thing and charting his own course in life. The older son did this by obeying, but obeying with this expectation that it in some way entitled the father to give him stuff. We can do the same thing spiritually (at least I do); we can do all the right stuff on the outside, but if deep down it’s really just to manipulate God into getting what we want, then our acts are no more righteous than the wild living of the “younger brothers” of the world in which we live. The solution is to first understand the saving love of Christ for us on the cross, and to see that God has already given us everything. We need to let the cross transform us into people who serve out of loving affection, not selfish motives or dutiful obligation.
This book is great, and if you read one thing I’ve posted about on here, I hope that this is it. It’s an easy read, only 133 pages, and it’s well worth it. Once I picked it up, I had a tough time setting it down… I pretty much finished it in one sitting!
And whatever you do, I hope that you take some time to have an awesome dinner with family and friends and give thanks for all that God has given. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!