Saturday, October 22, 2016
Prodigal Son Misinterpretations
The story/parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 gets preached a lot, and consequently we get it wrong a lot. Of course, it is the story of the gracious father more than the prodigal. We don’t know what prodigal means—it means “wasteful,” not repentant. So the name itself is telling. He wasted money, time in his life, relationships.
Recently I heard John MacArthur preach on this (radio broadcast), and he was going on and on about how much the older son hated the father. Where is he getting that? There is no indication that the older son hates and disrespects the father. MacArthur’s rhetorical flourishes on how much the older son despised the father were excessive. The conflict is over the seeming preferential treatment of younger son, who is the real one who has shown disrespect. I think he gets this from the analogy between the older son and the Pharisees, but Jesus was gracious toward Pharisees who came to him. The father is kind toward the older son and affirms his love toward him.
I’ve said this before, but the younger son’s return doesn’t solve his problems. There would probably always be distance between the two brothers. The younger son has wasted his inheritance—does he get another one, half of his brother’s? Did he pick up any diseases in his wild life? Will the Bible equivalent of the Mafia be coming after him? Does he have a police record?
Fame does interesting things to preachers and Bible teachers. I think it makes them feel a bit infallible. I have been reading about the sins of Beth Moore in her connecting with Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen and others not of the typical Southern Baptist stripe. That is not so much my business, but I do have to wonder why she thinks she is now such a spokesperson for us all. James says, “Be not many teachers, for teachers will receive greater judgment.” I do not think I will encourage her in the future; her teaching can be quite solid, but then she gets on strange riffs that are not rooted in the Word but more her own emotional experience. Even MacArthur, whom I have considered the most Biblical of Bible teachers, starts to believe his own press.
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