In Need of Grace

I recently read Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God which is about his insights into the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. I always thought of this as a story of grace and forgiveness that is provided by God to repentant prodigals. Keller says that is only a part – perhaps a small part of the story. Keller argues that it is another way in which Jesus provided a very convicting moral lesson to the Pharisees (a favorite target of his throughout the gospels) through the much overlooked character of the other son (the moralistic one that looks down on his younger brother for his wickedness and rebellion).

In the book Keller describes how both brothers have their flaws and their sins. The younger brother demands his inheritance before his father has even died, then proceeds to squander it on wine, women and song. He is rebelling against God and most everything else in traditional society. However, the older brother is like the Pharisees. He has devoted his life to being respectable, conservative, and very moral. He is disgusted by his younger brother.

However, Keller argues he is not that different from his brother because he has no love for his father either. He is also trying to manipulate his father through blatant disrespect or by being begrudgingly dutiful in order to get what he wants.

Keller points out that it doesn’t matter whether we are a high-minded, moral, respectable conservative who is disgusted by all the wickedness in the world or if we are an unrestrained, self-indulgent prodigal that views the religious right with scorn. We are both committing terrible sins and are in desperate need of a gracious God who will forgive us our false gods and idolatrous love affairs with material things.

Sometimes, I’m the younger brother, but if I’m honest, more times I’m the older brother. Either way, I’m never very far from being the younger brother or the older brother, but I’m always in desperate need of God’s grace.

Brad Gauen

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