Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The unfairness of God's grace and love

Luke 15:11-32  The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Last night's small group bible study lesson was on this story Jesus told about the Prodigal Son.  This is such a lousy name for this story.  I think this story should be called the Father's Great Love, but nobody asked me.

There are three main characters in this story.  There is the younger son, the father, and the older son.  The story begins with the younger son asking for his inheritance, leaving home, and spending the money as fast as he possibly can.  We don't know anything more about this kid.  We don't know why he wants to leave.  We can only guess.  I'm guessing he was thinking he could do better than his father and he wasn't too happy living under his father's authority.  The economy takes a turn after junior has spent all his money and now he's slopping pigs and so hungry the pig slop is looking quite delicious to him.

Long story short, the kid comes home with his tail between his legs, the father welcomes him and throws a party and this annoys the older son.  First of all, it doesn't appear he was even invited to the party.  It appears he is out WORKING and he hears the party going on inside the house.  The father begs this older son to come in a join the party.  He wants him to be happy junior is home after however long it's been.  Older son isn't having any of it.  In fact, he begins to complain that he never even got to have a party with his friends.  (this may have been the reason junior left)  The father again reminds the older son to be happy junior is home and reminds him he has been living with his inheritance this whole time and it is still intact.

My group understood the obvious forgiveness the father had for the younger son.  However, we had a more difficult time with the relationship with the father and the older son.  Again, we came up against the unfairness of God.  God just does what he wants to do when he wants to do it.  We batted this story around with all our humanness and matched it up with our own parental and sibling relationships.  It's amazing how fair parents try to be and how unfair parental love is perceived by their children.  I know this is true for me.

I am currently in a fairly tense time with my dad.  My dad and my brother have been in a fight for the past three years.  It's stupid.  I can't even get into all the stupid involved in this fight.  But let's just get this out in the open.  It's about money.  What else, right?  Anyway, the most recent level of stupid has come from my father and his belief that I am on my brother's side against him.  This, of course, is not true.  I'm on my side.  I'm the only one I'll side with in any situation like this.  I'm not getting down in the mud with any of them.  There you are.  This is my idea of what a father is and does and this is what I bring to the understanding of this story.  Obviously I'll never see the point of this story using my dad as the father figure.

Back to what I said earlier, this story is definitely misnamed.  This story is all about the father's love and how HUGE it is.  It's so big it can handle being thrown away by the younger son.  It's so big it can handle being minimized by the older son.  God's love wants all to be encompassed in it.  God wants for all to be reconciled to him.

The younger son is like the lost sheep that is searched for and found and brought back into the flock, like it says in Luke 15:3-7.  What verses can we use for the older son?  This son that feels as if there isn't enough of his father's love for him, even though he's stayed near his father his whole life.  Even though he's worked in the fields for his father.  What verse can we use when we feel the love we are getting from God isn't enough or it's been pulled away from us and we a feeling taken for granted, or worse, punished.  Maybe we can use these verses from Romans 8:35-39.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution of famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:  "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

203.  Once I belong to God, nothing can take me from him
204.  My small group bible study and the love they give me
205.  God's word reminding me how BIG God's love is
206.  Reminded that I don't have to be a wild child to prove God loves me
207.  Coffee (I just don't think I can say thank you enough for the coffee)

Linking with Soli Deo Gloria

8 comments:

  1. I think this story has a lot to say about the dangers of making comparisons. The older brother should've focused on his relationship with the father (and the brother, for that matter) instead of concerning himself with his father's and  younger brother's relationship. It can be tricky when there seems to be favoritism...and especially when the favoritism doesn't seem deserved. But I think comparing leads so often to jealousy, and it really is heartbreaking how often families fall apart over the division of someone's assets (whether that person is alive or dead). In those situations--hard as it is--it's so important to remember: the person with the money has every right to decide what to do with it...even if it seems unfair...even if it IS unfair. Thanks for sharing your insights, here. I've always loved this scriptural portrait of our heavenly Father.

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  2. Can anyone truly say thank you enough for the coffee?

    There's a lot of wisdom in recognizing there are limits in applying parallels between our human relationships and our relationship with God. There are things about Him in Scripture that I can't make heads or tails of unless I start with the foundational premise that He is good and He is for me.

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  3. that will preach...

    i agree with the comments on comparisons, that is a slippery slope indeed...but i am def happy with a grace i sometimes can not understand...and i hope that the battle in your family finds some...smiles.

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  4. I think the father didn't care about money. So from the father's point of view, the son did nothing wrong. Money is money, what matters is that they are together again.
    Happygirl! You are so funny! you are right!- why did the son leave? maybe because he wasn't allowed to throw parties! hahaha!
    My oldest brother is a prodigal son and I didn't use to understand my parents. Now that I have two daughters I actually get it.

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  5. Elizabeth StewartMay 2, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    I loved reading your take on the prodigal son story.  And yes, I'm still waiting for you to post the lamb stew recipe.

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  6. Praying for your dad and your brother friend!  Money is so unimportant it is sad that we give it so much power.

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  7. You rename the parable! Who did that? The Father's Great Love puts the focus where the focus of the story must go if you consider both sons--and you (and I) must. Great insight.

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  8. 203.  Once I belong to God, nothing can take me from him
    #203... I need to repeat it to myself. Daily! 

    Thank you for linking. 

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