The Prodigal God
Getting together with other women over coffee, food, and Bible study is so much fun! For the past two years, I have been going to this Bible study with 15–20 women from my church. It is a great study, and I love the variety in the ages of women there and the wisdom they all have to share. I have been challenged many times in different areas of my life through the different studies we’ve done, but never like this!
We’re reading “The Prodigal God,” by Tim Keller, which I highly recommend. It’s the all-too-familiar story of the prodigal son, but Keller also shows us what we may have missed in the elder brother’s actions and heart.
When I was in high school, I went on a winter retreat with our youth group and learned a lot about the story of the prodigal son and his brother. I remember the long-sleeved T-shirts for that weekend had on the back a painting by Rembrandt of the father welcoming his son home.
I remember my youth pastor asking us which son we could identify with, and most people said they felt like the older brother. We could see how he would be angry at the father for allowing the sinful younger brother to come back home and be treated with such royalty, especially after squandering his inheritance. What I am learning in this book is that while I am like the elder brother, I am more like him in ways I had not noticed before.
The elder brother is much like the Pharisees. He revels in his self-righteousness and good works. Keller writes of the elder brother, “Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation. His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.”
As a believer in Christ, I can recall many times when I have felt that I deserved something because of my good works. I never, ever realized it was pride I was experiencing. I think that because of how “good” I’ve been my whole life, I deserve to have good things. I deserve to have an easy life, a great marriage, wonderful kids, etc. I’ve seen my pride manifest itself as I’ve experienced the death of my daughter and the miscarriage of my son, both within a year of each other. I compare myself to others, thinking that I deserve better because I have done better.
But I’ve been so good! I’ve done everything right, so why do I deserve to go through such pain and suffering?
Could it be that my anger and self-righteousness have kept me from enjoying the feast of salvation, just like the elder brother? I need to repent, not just from my sins, but also from the reason I’ve done good things. I find myself doing good things so that someone else will take notice and pat me on the back, as opposed to doing those things out of love for my Savior.
Editor’s Note: Rebecca is at home embracing her new role as Mommy to two beautiful twin girls. She’ll be writing about that soon. She wrote this post before her twins were born.