27 September 2014

Jesus Warns of the Front Door of Self-Reliance

Rembrandt - The Return of the Prodigal Son
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.

If you want to read some sound teaching on The Prodigal Son read "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller.

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Only one is righteous. Only one is pure. Only one is perfect. Not the ones standing away from the table muttering. Not the outcasts who are at the table.

Luke 15 is such a brilliant chapter because it so succinctly explains the human condition and the mission his followers are to be on for the rest of this age. At the start of the third parable, he warns about those who love stuff but despise the One who provides it.

Recently, there has been great discussion about the number one industry here in Australia: mining. A few Australians have made a large amount of wealth from the things found in the ground that are greatly valued by others. While the mining magnates have become some of the richest people on the planet, the ones who have been employed by the mining companies have also pulled in large salaries giving these families and those they trade with greater opportunities for material wealth.

Meanwhile, there has been a growing voice throughout the nation wondering if it is fair that only a few should be able to amass such massive wealth from what is in the ground. After all, they didn't create it, they just found it. And, they found it within the commonwealth lands of Australia. Shouldn't they be obligated to give back a portion back to all the Australian people to be used as the Australian people decide? And so, the mining tax was born.

From Eve onward, we seem so easily convinced that God is holding out on us. We can be surrounded by all the things we could ever need, even when we did not work for them, and it is not enough. We seem to have an insatiable appetite for what we do not have.  So much so that if we perceive whatever is in the way of what we do not have as an obstacle to be overcome or worse, an enemy to be defeated.

When we perceive that God and His Word, His ways keep us from what will truly make us happy, He must be ignored. He cannot be trusted. He does not really love us. He is just interested in control and slavery.  Further still, in this mindset, the more He warns us about the path we are on, the harder we push back. If we are convinced that it is up to us to provide our own happiness, then He is no longer of any use to us.

When Job asks God for a reason why he was enduring the pain and sorrow, God responds with, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" For a long time, I thought that was such a cold response. But, as I meditate on His Word, I understand the wisdom. He's not flexing His muscles and power to Job demanding like it or lump it. He's reminding Job that it is all a gift. Yes, Job lived in a land he did not create. Yes, Job was blessed by people, his wife, his children, his friends, that he did not create. As easily as it is given, it is easily taken.

When our happiness is as easily given or taken as the things that make us happy, it is not good. It's such a schizophrenic way of living.  Our mood shifts as often as the economic flow of the stock market.  Worse, when things are down, we will not patiently wait until things are back up. We must go get it by any means necessary. We will destroy reputations. We will lie. We won't care if those things belong to someone else. We will kill whatever and whoever we choose.

We humans are passionate beings. Wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. How unwise to place our passions in the things that can be given and taken so easily? Whenever we are blessed with that wisdom, our minds should turn to who cannot be taken, who will never end. If we are blessed by the gifts provided for us, how much more can we be blessed by the Provider?

We find ourselves in the pig pen, on an empty bed, in a physical, mental and/or emotional prison disregarded by those with the same ambitions we do, used and thrown away by similar hearts and desires. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When we come to this realisation, we are in prime position to see things as clearly as we ever have. We come humbly before the Father and beg His forgiveness in order that we might come back home.

And, the One toward whom we are convinced doesn't love us, whom we are convinced has been holding out on us, whom we are convinced doesn't have our best in mind, looks longingly for His child to come back home. Every day, He waits for each son and daughter to come back home. And, he doesn't wait for us to walk through the door but meets us on the road, gives us the biggest hug of our life and throws a massive party worthy of the greatest family reunion in human history.

For those who have walked out of the Father's house through the front door of self-reliance and are still convinced that they best know how to live the life that they have not created, none of this teaching will resonate. But, for those who realise that self-reliance is a false god, please hear that Jesus is teaching the road back home is always available and ready to be travelled.

Are you concerned about those people standing off to the side muttering? Jesus teaches them too.

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