Many will read the title of Tim Keller’s book and totally miss the mark on what it is saying. I thought, until recently, that “Prodigal” meant “wayward” or “rebellious.” Instead, it describes someone who lavishly gives or spends what one has in his or her possession.
If I take that definition, I can say that God is lavish in what He spills out on me as in the words of the song, “Broken and Spilled Out.” It says, “…God’s richest treasure, lavished on me….” Since God has the One and Only Son, He sent Him to earth to pay or atone for our Sin. He lavished His Son upon us through mercy and grace…extravagant love can only do such a thing.
Secondly, Keller focuses somewhat upon the elder brother who is part of the parable as well. We usually can find ourselves in the younger son, and fail to see ourselves in the elder son. The younger lived life in open rebellion, while the elder lived life in silent rebellion.
What was the elder son’s rebellion? It was following the letter of the law more than the spirit of the law. He was so confined to rules that he did not allow himself to rejoice or take part in the return of his brother. One preacher in my past said, “How many who come church meet the older brother first and never return?” The older brother does not welcome sinners. The older brother does not rejoice in the lost being found. The elder brother can not “party” for the one who has come home. The elder brother wants the rewards from the Father, but not the life style of the Father.
We have to watch ourselves or one of the two brothers will appear in our lives and we will live in their shoes. The One whose shoes we need to wear are the shoes of the Father. The Father who was prodigal in lavishing the ring, the robe, and the fatted calf upon his returning son.
Subjects such as this and the questioning that can surround such a book like this brings me to another conclusion….it is right, good and wise to question any sermon, blog post, book, Sunday School Literature, song, poem and teacher to make sure they align with the Word of God. We should place opinions beside the Word and make sure that the writer “cuts” it straight, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. We are to test the Spirits and be noble Christians who like those from Berea searched the scriptures to make sure that what Paul was saying was true.
“The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11 HCSB
As we travel in the shadow lands, we must be on guard, question, learn, and apply truth to our hearts. How do we do this?
First, read the Word. Know the Word as much as possible. Memorize it. Study it. Enjoy it.
Secondly, be a part of a group that discusses issues and opinions on scripture. A group is a great way to expose yourself to thoughts and opinions in order to discuss and raise questions. Discernment is often found in such groups like Sunday School, Discipleship Training, and book clubs where mature Christians meet in order to learn.
Thirdly, always be on your guard and know that no human writer will ever be 100% correct all the time. In other words, you CAN even question Billy Graham’s thoughts and opinions. Any preacher or teacher who is worth listening to will welcome questions and will even ask you to search it out in the Word. They will WANT you to scrutinize their teachings.
In a time where any opinion can be found with the touch of a button, we MUST have discernment. Our internet today is much like the open forums where Paul stood and talked with the Greek thinkers of their day and challenged them to see the God he followed.
No matter what we do, we must have the heart of a homing pigeon that returns time and time again to the home of the gospel message. The home of truth centered upon Christ who will deliver it all to the All in All God – a God who recklessly, furiously, and wildly pours out His love upon us.
So, read and chew…swallow if the Spirit of Truth guides, but be ready to spit out any form of doctrine that goes against the Word. Stretch your mind and trust God to help you make godly decisions about what you read and hear. It is the noble thing to do.