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Monday, December 19, 2011

Families, Prodigals and Turkeys [6]

We will mess up everyu time we start comparing ourselves to others. It’s easy for us to look at other people whose sins and errors are open and vulgar, and think we are so much better than them. We must remember that there are secret and favorite sins of the spirit as well.

Henri Nouwen, a famous religious writer, had his life altered radically by understanding this very point. Nouwen was a minister who was very proud of his goodness. God used this passage to show him he was guilty of the sins of the older brother and it changed his life. He wrote:

“Looking into myself and then around me at the lives of other people, I wonder which does more damage, lust or resentment? There is so much resentment among the ‘just’ and the ‘righteous.’ There is so much judgment, condemnation and prejudice among the ‘saints.’ There is so much frozen anger among the people who are so concerned about avoiding ‘sin.’“

What was his point? You don’t have to waste your life on wild living. There are the sins of jealousy, pride, anger, and resentment that are so much easier to hide from the rest of the world.

Dave, Jr. (the older brother) had a faulty understanding of grace

Davey was insulted because he really thought he deserved better than the younger son, Philip. He thought he deserved a fattened calf, or at least a billy goat. He was offended because he thought his brother deserved less. After all, he had been serving in the fields and he had kept all the rules while the brother was off living it up. It just didn't seem right!

The Dave, Jr's of the world are big on keeping the rules. In church, they are the members who have been working in the church since Moses was a wee lass, and they think they deserve some kind of recognition or reward for their service.

Any time you start talking about what you deserve you leave the realm of grace and get into the area of human performance. Most Davey's carry a Bible, attend church and Sunday School faithfully, and they are proud of it, too.

In Matthew 20 Jesus tells another parable about the nature of God’s grace. It’s a story of a master who sends workers to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a dollar for a full day’s work, so they start working at sunrise.

At 9 a.m. he sends some other workers to help, and then at noon and at 3:00 he sends some more. Then, just before quitting time, at 5:00 he sends some new workers to help, too.

Finally, the whistle blows and it’s time for the workers to receive their wages. We’ll pick up with the story in Jesus’ own words:


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