I quote from one of the brilliant minds of our generation and time – Late Arch-Bishop Veron Ashe; who passed on sometime last year and whom I had immense respect for as a teacher-par-excellence when it comes to Biblical exegesis and exposition. In comparing the love we have for God and the love between a husband and a wife, he said, “when your reason for loving your husband is based on what he provides and gives to you – the material things, his credit cards, the car, to mention a few, then that woman has become an expensive prostitute”. He also said, “a man who loves his wife because of what he thinks he can get from his wife has made himself a pimp”. And he concluded by asking the congregation a question, “why do you love God?”
His father went to meet him with the view of uniting him and his estrange brother at the feast. He was given an opportunity to change his mindset and become objective (after all he had worked so hard like a slave to keep his father’s business together) yet he didn’t. He believed so much on what he knew and acted upon, he felt betrayed by his father who had no prior knowledge of his intentions. Also, he had that unwavering idea that there was good (capturing the empire) waiting for him at the end of the exercise. In all, he refused the father’s plea for change and then the story ends.
This is a brilliant portrait of today’s Christian, who observes the creed and contents of the Bible with a view of obtaining some good at the end of the rat race, rather than show an unquestionable love for God irrespective of whether there is good at the end or not. The moment things don’t plan out as we’ve expected, we move to another church where we think our issues can be addressed. Unknown to us, we have just expressed the real purpose why we went to God in the first place. This action is wrong and we need to have a change of mind!
Sometimes we are thrown into circumstances that prompt us to make critical choices and alter specific behaviors for the purpose of becoming a better version of ourselves. For some, even the most critical of situations are not enough to serve as a wake-up call irrespective of them recognizing and knowing that changes have to be made. It was a difficult one for this elder brother to make even though intrinsically he should just adjust and flow with his father (as he claimed to have served him for so many years).
Paraphrasing and relating the story again to Christians of today, you have an idea of what a Christian should look and behave like; you have become a sum total of a particular doctrine to the extent that some things you know and do cannot even be substantiated by the balances in Heaven or from the volume of the good Book. Most of your decisions have been made because of the values you hold based on the things taught to you by your mentors and by the plethora of teachers you have listened to over the years. One day you become confronted with the idea that most of the things you heard were ideas of men and not the Word of God. At this point, what will you do; would it be an easy decision to make, knowing that twenty or more years of your life will need to be thrown away, just like that?
This was and still is the state of the Jews – they boasted about the fact that they were the children of Abraham; boasted about the fact that they were of the circumcision and some never wanted to have any association with the Gentiles. They knew about a Messiah from the prophetic writings and they anticipated the coming of their King. Their minds were overwhelmed by a particular expectation and they never shifted in their opinions. The King came and they rejected Him; Jesus highlighted that He was the one Moses spoke about to them but they remained adamant and missed it all.
As far as he (the elder brother) was concerned, the status quo is always hard to challenge. He would have thought things are fine just the way they are, hence the question: why the need for change? This is what the worldview sees as being pragmatic. He was comfortable with his style and way of life, even if it portends danger at the end of it. As far as he was concerned, things went on (or are going on) well in the business and didn’t realize the repercussions – making it more convenient to dismiss the thought of danger, until his younger brother came back home. Sometimes disaster might be what we need to realize that indeed a change is needed.
He could have depended on the father for information and direction. It was later seen in the story that the boy had his mind made up, no matter what emanated from the father as new info. His father and what the father represented was no longer final authority in his life and the natural tendencies for change didn’t occur or come to him. He never even tried to ask questions from his father but was buried in the aqua of assumptions and speculations muddled up. Therefore, it was difficult for him to change and he was not cognizant of the need for change even though the vessel proposing change was external to him (his father).
He was also not ready psychologically for change. He was bent on getting that reward he envisaged. The overwhelming frustration and the depression did not help him discover that change was needed. He was all about himself and how he felt, thinking at least he had not destroyed his father’s business and family investments. No matter what his father said to him, he wasn’t ready to listen or make amends.
Many things have been taught by the different categories of teachers and pastors all around, most of which have been imbibed by so many of their followers or disciples. We have formed and have continued to consolidate on those things therefore the necessary change that God is bringing our way isn’t welcome. It is not part of what we know, no one taught us and therefore no matter how true this change is, we reject it because we are not ready to let go of the ancient traditions concocted by these men.
This is the reason why the Apostle warned the Church at Rome that no one is allowed to teach any other doctrine separate from the one he had taught them. He called the Church at Galatia foolish because they were soon removed from the Gospel he presented to them to another one, which was diametrically opposed to what he had laid down as the truth. He warned Timothy not to be intimidated by the age of the false teachers and he should not allow any other doctrine to be taught aside what he (the Apostle) taught him.
This is a clarion call for all Christians to search and look for the truth; and no matter who is talking, teaching and preaching the standard for all truth is the Bible. When what you hear does not have a Biblical endorsement and you find it difficult to change even when you hear the truth, then no matter how pragmatic you are and the experiences you have had, you are fast becoming like the elder brother; and may miss all that God has for you just like the brother missed the feast at the conclusion of the story.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was spot on when he said, “Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. One step away, you find yourself on the downgrade. Once a church or individual Christian gets on the downgrade, momentum takes over. Recovery is unusual and only happens when Christians get on the ‘up-line’ through spiritual revival.”