Working for God's Love

Text: Luke 15:29-30
But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” (NRSV)

It took me a long time to pick up on the nuance of the older son’s response to the father’s reconciliation with the younger son.  The younger son comes back to the father after squandering what would have been his inheritance when his father died.  The younger son thinks himself unworthy to be a son and is willing to come back as a hired hand.

The older son, never thought of himself as a son at all.  His words betray the fact that he always considered himself no more than a hired hand in his father house; “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command…”  He is coming to his father with a sense of entitlement based on his work ethic, not with a sense of gratitude based on a loving relationship between a father and a son.

This can be a problem with our relationship with God as well.  We can feel like God owes us something because we go to church every Sunday, or we have never cheated on our spouse, or we have put up with that horrible next-door neighbor all these years, or we have never cheated on our taxes.  We might also think that because we have worked so hard at being good, that we shouldn’t have anything bad happen to us, no major illnesses or financial setbacks.

Instead of being in an intimate loving relationship with God, we feel like we are obligated to act a certain way in order to get the benefits and protections of God and, therefore, instead of enjoying the abundant life that Jesus talks about, we are living out a clinical contractual relationship with an all powerful and sometimes wrathful God.

How would you describe your relationship with God?  Is a relationship built on you earning the benefits and protections of God?  Is it distant and contractual?  Or is it based on a mutual love and the knowledge that all God has, God offers to you, not because you have earned it, but because God loves you?

Pray with me:

God of love and God of generosity remind me through the indwelling of your Holy Spirit that our relationship is built on love and not based on my earning my way into your kingdom.  AMEN.

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