Archive for June 21st, 2010

I started reading Michael Spencer’s “Mere Churchianity” yesterday. Leave it to the iMonk to not even make it through one chapter without making me stop dead in my tracks. Although I love Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God“, Spencer has managed — in three paragraphs — to make me reconsider the entire parable of the prodigal son more than Keller did in an entire book. In examining the part of the story where the prodigal son realizes that he’s at the end of his rope, and so he creates the plan to return to his father’s house and ask to be a servant, Spencer writes:

… our boy decides that his dad could help him escape his pigpen lifestyle, but he doesn’t want to deal with the full implications of his stupidity. So he creates a plan for apologizing to his father, whom he (rightly) assumes will be angry. That plan includes negotiating the son’s new role in the family — that of servant. He will live out back and be useful, but he won’t be a son any longer.

His plan should sound familiar to all of us, since it is the religious answer to our problem as human beings. It seems like the perfect solution, since it’s our idea. But it’s never God’s idea, since he’s not into religion.

Religion is our negotiation with God to try to get his help in exchange for our good behavior. We promise to do what we’re told, and we expect God to reward us. This is a straightforward business arrangement, and we fully expect it to work. Meanwhile, we talk about being God’s child as if we’re family. But in our performance-for-reward arrangement, things don’t operate on grace. Under the rules of religion, God is kept at arm’s length and is expected to be involved only to the degree that he gives us what we think we deserve.

Um. Wow.

To be honest, until yesterday, I had always seen the prodigal’s plan as misguided (especially since I knew the ending of the story), but well-meaning. In retrospect, the latter is incredibly untrue.

In Yiddish, it’s chutzpah.

In the Old Testament, it’s filthy rags.

In the New Testament, it’s skubala.

In plain English, it’s pride, arrogance, stupidity, and pure crap.

When am I going to learn what grace is really about?

  • Share/Bookmark
YouTube Preview Image
  • Share/Bookmark