The story of the family with a Prodigal Son and Elder Brother (Luke 15:11-32 ) is a favorite parable. It continues to dazzle our understandings about God, ourselves and the human race. It teaches us a lot about moral living. When I read again or just think about it (that is the whole point of a parable, to let it ruminate for years in your mind), I see insights about the moral aspects in our relationship to God and others.
Today, I woke up with a new connection I had not seen. While I have published on this story’s demonstration of the scandalous love of the father and used it in many blogs (e.g. to compare right and righteousness, or about Jeremiah’s understand of grace in judgment), I saw a new connection in the Prodigal’s “coming to his senses.”
That phrase “coming to his senses” can be a statement about conversion, growth or just simply new learning. Hopefully, “coming to our senses” is a continual work of a lifetime.
“How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (v 17).
I always thought this statement was about the prodigal finally figuring out his father was loving.
I think it is.
But there is another subtle statement here. The prodigal realized his father knew how to manage.
The prodigal son needed two things to converge that day to create a new reason to go home. “My father is loving.” “My father manages life so well even his servants have enough food.”
We could imagine a father who loves well but has no food to give his servants. We could imagine a father who has food but no love to give. The Prodigal realized he had a father who could do both….well.
That is something worthy coming home to.
I tire of people who see God’s law and his counsels as detrimental or even separate from his love. “Oh, you are such a legalistic person to believe in eating healthy food, or be against premarital sex, or to manage your money so tightly.” “People who tithe are just a bunch of legalists.” “You Adventist only talk about the Law. Don’t you see the Love of God.”
Granted, we Adventist can easily slip into legalism, because we talk a lot about do’s and don’ts. I know what it is to be a legalist. My article above on the Scandalous Love comes after climbing back out of two ditches simultaneously. The ditch of legalism and the ditch of licentiousness. God, my wife and my pastors have been on a great work to teach me the core lessons the Prodigal son was learning that day.
Coming home to God, is to see how Love and Management work together so well. It is to connect God’s law and His love in a full embrace.
Do you see that connection?
Our Sabbath School class is currently watching and discussing Andy Stanley’s Guardrails, an excellent series (free online or bought as a DVD) on setting parameters in our financial, sexual, social, emotional and family lives. Pastor Stanley provides a winsome way of looking at guidelines and rules for living. Guardrails provide a system to keep us out of the ditches that sin leads us into. They are barriers before even passing over God’s moral law.
The two ditches that guardrails can protect are the prodigals foolish lifestyle ditch (celebration without perspiration) and the other was the elder brothers ditch (perspiration without celebration). Prodigals and workaholics both have a hard time “getting God” and life.
I didn’t love my journey into legalism nor licentiousness. God’s rules and rule of love have become my only safequard.
I share with the youngest son, a winsome view of a father with lots of love and food around his table.
His silly little rules make sense!!
It seems that the whole human race is on a struggle to come home to that truth about God.
Ever since God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden to make their own gardens, he has been working to help us each and as whole nations learn the love of rules and the rule of love.
God has food.