29 September 2014

Jesus Warns of the Back Door of Self-Righteousness

Few of us love God, but the vast majority of us love God's stuff. All of us long for heaven, but the vast majority of us long for a heaven without the Lord.
Jesus has already talked about those who are eating with him. Now, he turns his attention to the ones standing off to the side muttering.
Some of us go after God's stuff in a more direct manner. We live this life that God has given to us, taking what we can when we can proclaiming in the loudest voice possible that we don't need the very one who has given us what we need. Some of us go after God's stuff through attempted manipulation.

We don't read God's repeated covenant of "You will be my people and you will be your God." as a way to become closer to God, but a way to get our hands on his stuff.
It's why the church is full of hypocrites. It's why champions of the family end up divorced. It's why the church ends up with hundreds of denominations. It's why many of us are in large homes while our neighbours pick out of the rubbish and justify our neglect under the guise of God's favour and our righteousness. It's why we point aghast at those people beheading infidels while thousands of unborn children are slaughtered in our own medical facilities while many pastors stand mute because they don't want to scare away those who pay their salary.
We work hard in following the letter of the law. We dress right. We deny ourselves. We give to charity. We get married or stay celibate. We stay away from those who don't and we cling to those who do. We pray. We fast. We memorise scripture. We go to church. We tithe. But none of it with the aim of getting to know God better. Instead, with the aim that when the time comes, we will get our rightful share of His stuff.
The problem is that, despite all our hard work, it is still His Kingdom. It is still His stuff. He is the King, not us. And so, we not only try to convince Him that we deserve His stuff, but others haven't worked as hard, if at all, and so those people don't deserve what we have rightfully earned. And so we categorise His law. Yeah, I'm a gossip, but I'm not a whore! Yeah, I'm a glutton, but I'm not a homosexual! Yeah, I cheated on my wife, but I'm not a murderer! I'm not like those tax collectors and sinners. Why is this Messiah choosing to eat with those people?
 At the sight of seeing the Father scorn their hard work by welcoming those who haven't work at hard as they have, they do not sit with Jesus. Instead, they stand off to the side muttering.
Jesus knows the hearts of men. "The older brother became angry and refused to go in." Did they see the Law as knowing their Father better? Did they service to Him as living with joy? No. "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders." Did they see their Father's blessings as gifts or earnings? Did they see what they had as blessings at all? "Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I can celebrate with my friends."  After all, they thought their Father wanted them to deny themselves and so they did. 
But, this fostered an attitude of smouldering anger and resentment toward the Father. And, when our relationship with the Lord is not right neither is our relationship to anyone else. We end up sharing the very same fate as those we have muttered against, we are outside our Father's house. We are lost. "But when this son of yours (not my brother) who has squandered your property comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"
I've been very angry lately. I've been angry at my wasted theological education. I've been angry at in-laws complaining about how long their latest trip to the states has been, how tiring the flight was. I've been angry at not being able to go to my dad's funeral. I've been angry at having to leave everything I ever knew to go to live in a place that I did not know.
I thought I was angry at them, but fact of the matter is, I've been mad at my Father in Heaven. Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it. I didn't see my wife as a blessing, but a curse. I wondered outside the house. 
It's so easy to not trust God. It's so easy to be convinced that He is not seeking the best for us, the development of our character. It shouldn't be so easy, but it is. Yes, I miss home. Yes, I miss Dad. But, ultimately it's a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. And, he's been very good to me. And, I haven't earned a bit of it. In fact, he'd be perfectly justified to just leave me and walk back in the house.
But, that's not His holy, loving nature. He is love. He makes it very clear that he will not force me to come back home. If I stay outside, well, it's my choice. But, with a loving, strong, earnest warning, the perfect Father says, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
Stop this whinging. Stop your pride. Stop standing off to the side. Stop muttering. We will celebrate without you. But, it would be a better celebration with you.

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