By Alex Anderson – Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church –
For years every time I would hear or read the story of the Prodigal Son it would bother me. I understood the facts of the story. It was clear that one son, the younger, asked his father (in an untimely manner) to give him his share of the family estate. Then the son proceeds to hurry off and spend it living on the wild side of life. Sowing his oats. Once he runs out of cash he finds himself eating pig food showing just how low he landed. It’s also a wake-up call for him to change his “no good” ways. So the son comes trudging back to his Dad’s house with his tail between his legs as though he has a great heart change. This is where the traditional telling of the story bugs me.
A definition of prodigal is “to spend money in a reckless and extravagant way” and the younger son did just that. But my question has to do with the father. Why did he give him the money in the first place? Did he not know that money is a powerful tool and that it could be used just the way the younger son used it, to buy things that could cause a train wreck in his life?
Maybe his father hoped he would use the money to feed and educate the less fortunate children in the world. Like my friend Ben Rodgers does with Children’s Cup in Zimbabwe, Africa (shameless plug for Children’s Cup). It doesn’t say in the passage what the father hoped the son would use the money for. So I have come to the conclusion that the story is not about the son’s changed heart or even the money at all, but about the father. In fact the son’s revelation, in my opinion, was about the fact that he was starving.
All those friends he had bought ran out on him; those so-and-sos! Now his living conditions were horrible. He actually said that his father’s servants lived better that he was living. It was a very shallow revelation. Most people, myself included, get these surface revelations when we get bad financial or health news. I’m not saying it was not important, but it is not the bigger idea of the story.
No, the issue I have is something more penetrating. The father gave his son the power to exercise his “free will” (the money was the means). If anyone is to blame for what happened it should be the father, right? I mean after all the father could have said, “No, you cannot leave, you are not ready yet!” Or, “Sorry, I’m not ready to let go of the cash.” Then the son would not have almost destroyed his life.
So is this true?
Is the father to blame? Well, yes and no! The father did allow the younger son to run off with a wad of cash in his pocket and no longer looking over his son’s shoulder making sure he didn’t smoke, drink, chew or run around with girls that do. Nope. He was on his own. So, in this sense the father was to blame.
Once he was out in the land of opportunity with all that money, the son made his own decisions. He’s the one who spent the money on whatever his little heart desired until he maxed out all his cards. To find a place to stay and eat, he went to work for a pig farmer. What a nightmare! He made all those fine upstanding decisions all on his own. He was the man.
So whose side are you on, the father’s or the son’s?
Before we tackle that monster-size question, let me give you another almost identical situation to consider; one that may be just a smidge too close to home for both of us. You and I make 612 decisions a day, according to ask.com. That’s a lot of free will to toss around. And I wonder how many of those decisions get us in equal trouble? Who is to blame then? Is it God, for giving us a free will to decide as we please?
People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD. Proverbs 19:3 NLT
God is ultimately the culprit for creating mankind as a free moral agent and gave man the ability to create babies, spend money or better himself. How dare He do that to us! He should have made us robots with no will or ability to think for ourselves. Just think, if we were robots, we would be totally blameless for our actions. We could neither fail nor succeed. Hum!
What was God thinking anyway?
Maybe Love? Maybe He was thinking that we could love or not love as we choose. Maybe God wanted us to choose to love Him. I mean, who wants a friend you have to buy anyway…right!
Jesus is saying this is the way God the Father is. He’s prodigal with His love for us and Jesus should know, it cost Him His life!
Be Life-giving today!
Go to www.dangerous-prayers.com to check out Pastor Alex’s book, coming out soon!