I have a soft spot for Pharisees.
When I read the Bible, I empathize with them. I once lived my life trying to earn God’s love by doing everything right. I thought God a cruel task master, and I was his slave.
In some ways I’m still a Pharisee. This drive to be the best, to be the remarkable one, still nips my heels. I want to make God proud, and I think some of the Pharisees did too.
Because of their pride and selfish ambition these religious teachers caught flak from Jesus. “Blind guides,” “White-washed sepulchers,” he called them, or worse, “Children of the devil.”
And I get why. I really do, so when I listened to John Piper preach about Jesus’ tender words to Pharisees, I fell a little more in love with Jesus.
Scripture doesn’t record many gentle words to these religious know-it-alls. That’s why Luke 15:25-31 takes my breath away.
In this parable of the prodigal son Jesus’ words drip with grace as He paints the picture of a father who’s watch and waiting for the lost son. But don’t miss His longing words to his older son whom he goes out to plead with.
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31).
This parable catches the older brother in the wrong thinking I so often catch myself in. Instead of seeing God as a loving and caring father, the eldest sees God as a master. In his eagerness to earn what was coming to him, He failed to realize that he already had everything he wanted.
Instead of being satisfied and living out of abundance with a heart overflowing in thankfulness, the older son chose “un-grace” and jealousy. His mindset of work blinded him from freely receiving and freely giving.
Ever been caught in this trap?
For years I read this parable and missed the point. I never saw myself as the lost son. Instead, I thought the older son had a pretty good case against the father. Oh how I was wrong!
Whoever you relate to as you read this, just know Jesus is on your side. He’s beckoning you to Himself. If you feel lost, God watches and waits for you, and He is not mad at you.
Let me repeat. He is not mad at you! Not even a little.
If you relate more with the older brother and feel like you have to earn God’s love, take this to heart. God has showed you his love by sending His son.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
He didn’t die once we cleaned up our acts. He didn’t die once we proved our loyalty. Jesus died for a world entrenched in sin. Only through believing in Him can we freely receive grace through faith.