Yesterday I went by the library to renew a book for Andrew, and a small book on the top shelf of the new books section drew my attention. And even though I have a number of books at home already that I need to read, I checked out The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller since the story from Luke 15 is very special to me. It's almost like I needed to see what this author had to write about it ... especially since it was titled the prodigal GOD! In the introduction, he explains that prodigal doesn't mean "wayward" as we often believe. It actually means "recklessly extravagant" and "having spent everything." Perhaps you can tell by that definition how it would fit God.
After not reading far at all, I saw, too, where this author was focusing not only on the immoral younger brother who tends to get most of the attention, but also on the self-righteous elder brother. Both young men were mentioned by Jesus and each represented people listening to Christ's message, the "sinners" and the Pharisees.
I've read the first few chapters and here are a couple of things that I wanted to share thus far. They really made me pause for reflection.
"Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don't obey God to get God himself - in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Savior and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don't believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves. Here, then, is Jesus's radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord and Judge." (pg. 43)
The author gave an example of someone who tried to earn God's favor, success, and "the good life" by being very moral.
"[By] seeking to put God in his debt and get control over him through his good works -- instead of relying on his sheer grace -- he was acting as his own Savior. . . . There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good." (pg. 44)