I was doing some thinking on “The Prodigal Son” today and it made me realize a few things that I often have just accepted and overlooked.
1. There are two sons… I know this is obvious, but when you think about it a bit more you start to realize the implications of this.
This was just a story Jesus made up. There was no facts to keep up with. Everything in the story was in it for a reason. So why include a second son? Was it just to show that we shouldn’t be envious when those who seem to do less than us seem to get more? Was it to show the outrage that it was the YOUNGEST son who demanded inheritance? Or was there something more to this? Was it just to show how the father loved both sons equally?
From a writing point of view, the two sons are very much foils to one another. While we don’t know for certain, it seems to be insinuated that while one felt entitled to ask for everything in spite of doing nothing, the other seemed to give his best without asking for anything (which is why he seems to be so upset when the younger brother comes back and gets so much more than he has)
To put it another way… I see many times in the church today, two types of Christians. The first treat God as their personal genie.
“ASK GOD AND CALL THIS HOTLINE AND YOU CAN HAVE A RICH HOME, BEAUTIFUL WIFE, AND ALL THE MATERIAL THINGS YOU WANT!”
The other side I see however, are people who see that first side and are so (rightfully) appalled at what they see that they go to the other extreme and feel they carry the weight of this world on their backs.
“God helps those who help themselves. God will support you but YOU have to do the grunt work. For miracles to happen you have to MAKE them happen! If you feel God calling you one way then make a business plan of how you’ll make it work and if you can’t well… maybe you aren’t hearing God right or maybe He means in like… 60 years or something.”
And that also doesn’t work… On the lighter end of things, God DOES want us to ask Him and for us to rely on Him. He says it time and time again in the Bible. On the darker side of things however… people who try to force God’s hand often regret it.
What happened when Saul tried to force God to protect them in battle because HE thought it was the right choice? What happened to Abraham when he tried to have a kid another way because HE thought he was running out of time and HE had to make God’s will happen? What happened to Peter when he fought against the Roman guards because HE thought that HE needed to protect God to keep God’s will happening? What happened to random person who tried to catch the arc of the covenant from falling because HE thought that it would break if HE didn’t intercede??”
We are so used to the bible telling us that these people did wrong that we tend to villainize them and make them appear so much weaker than we are in our eyes… when the truth is, it’s SO easy to do!
“God said for me to do ____ but I see no path forward. I should try to get my life together and THEN follow Him.”
“God put this cause on my heart, but I need to make ends meet this month, so maybe I’ll write a note to send them money or time when I can afford it.”
“God really put that person on my heart right now…. but they’re so radical liberal, and I’m with my incredibly extremely conservative friend right now… so I should try to find them later on.”
I’m not the one who can say what is the right answer or wrong answer in situations such as these…. but what I can say is how easy it is to out-logic God’s will and justify turning back… because sometimes…. often…. most times God asks us to do crazy things!
Which leads to point 2
2. It was never about what the brothers had or didn’t have.
The younger brother asked for the inheritance…. and here’s the crazy part… he got it! The younger brother complained about the younger brother getting a crazy party when he came home when he still had so little.
The thing that I realized from this, was that it was never about what they had or didn’t have.
The younger brother had stuff in abundance…. yet he failed. Why? Because he was living life as HE saw fit, (which brings us back to what I was talking about before)
It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have. What matters is what God can do with it and if you are going to trust God with it!
He defeated an army with clay pots and torches. He toppled a giant with a kid and a smooth stone. He protected a nation with a talking donkey… owned by the person who was going to curse said nation in the first place. He fed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish. He created mankind out of dust and some breath. He created the whole of reality out of nothing! Whatever you have or don’t have, GOD CAN USE IT!
It’s not about what you’ve been provided with. It’s about what you trust God to do with it, because even if you have nothing, God can do everything! And even if you have everything, you can still waste it all and accomplish nothing.