Prodigal God - Tim Keller

I read Prodigal God by Tim Keller the other week and it was fantastic. I didn't know what to expect going into it but am I beyond glad that I read it.  It was incredibly convicting, especially chapter 4 which I believe was written specifically to me.

Keller expounds on the parable of the Prodigal Son explaining in detail the different characters, their propensities, the similarities and differences between the two brothers, and the overwhelming grace and mercy of the father.  I can honestly say this book changed my perspective on a parable I thought I knew pretty much everything about.

In his exposition of the parable Keller brings up a point that had previously eluded me: both the younger brother AND the older brother were lost.  Most of us see the older brother as the 'good' one and the younger brother as the 'bad' one.  As it turns out they were both lost, just in different ways.  It is easy, as Keller points out, to see how lost the younger brother is.  He runs off with his inheritance and blows it all on a party lifestyle and winds up envying what the pigs eat.  The trick is seeing how lost the older brother is.

His lostness is rooted in his legalism.  His obedience to his father was not out of love for the father but out of love for the father's stuff.  He obeyed so that his father owed him his inheritance.  This is why he is so bitter at the end of the story when the younger brother comes home and the father throws an enormous feast.  More of his father's stuff, which is really what the older brother is after, has been given to the younger brother.  From his point of view this is beyond unfair, its robbery.

Keller explains that the Gospel is the third way, not moral relativism or legalism.  In moral relativism we do what we want, in legalism we obey and therefore are saved.  The Gospel says, we are saved therefore we obey.

The Gospel is the father offering a place in his house to both the younger brother AND the older brother.  Not because they have earned it but because he is gracious and merciful and desires a reconciled relationship with both of them.


I mention that chapter 4, in my mind, was written specifically for me.  It so convicted me of my older brother-ness.  My default mode is legalism.  It's easy to look down on other people from that ivory tower, especially those with younger brother tendencies.  "I don't participate in those 'bad' activities, therefore I'm a better person.  God owes me for being so good."  What a crock.  I'm lost if I believe that.

The Gospel is for EVERYONE; yes, even good Christians.

I must remind myself of that everyday.  God alone is good.  I am perpetually in need of his grace.

Book Review, TheologyCamComment