The Parable of the Prodigal Son

20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let us [invite everyone and] feast and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was [as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15

I have often wondered why the father didn’t punish his son for this very silly behaviour and welcomed him instead with open arms, gave him a change of clothes and threw him a feast. Some style of parenting [rolling my eyes]!

God’s ways are not at all our ways and He sees things completely differently to us. With this parable Jesus shows what is most important to the Father; a relationship with us. The Father is happy when we are with Him. But it appears we still struggle with having our sins forgiven and enjoying the liberty of sonship and seem to prefer ‘earning’ this privilege. A lot of doctrines in much of today’s church kind of reflect this belief. We are still unwittingly taught that salvation only gets us thus far and our efforts will take us over the finish line. Whether we care to admit it or not we are repeating the same mistakes of the Galatian church.

From time to time, I get really, really shocked by some of the write-ups I come across in support of the continuance of this doctrine in the New Testament church. Believing that one has to tithe to be blessed really reflects a works mentality. With this in mind, let’s consider the father of the prodigal son; all that mattered to him was that his son had retraced his steps back home. The father had no further requirement from him. His repentance was enough to earn him a place at his father’s table. Against this backdrop, teaching that ‘tithing’ is a condition for receiving God’s blessings and protection flies in the face of Christianity. It is quite akin to the prodigal son’s request of being treated as a servant; he thought he could earn his father’s forgiveness.

A servant has no rights in a household. He has to work to get paid; he basically earns his keep. A son on the other hand does not have to earn his father’s approval. His father will always cater for his needs regardless and this makes mandating the tithe in today’s church completely out of place. However, this has not stopped some proponents of this doctrine; they take scripture completely out of context and go to great lengths to justify teaching it.

Here’s one I hear quite often. God gave you what you have and is only asking for 10% back. If God needed anything back, it would have been reflected in the scripture. Another one is we show our appreciation to God by tithing. This is again is approaching our relationship with God from a human perspective. We show appreciation by shunning our old way of life and embracing the new life He’s given us. A fraction of our possessions is no substitute.

Let’s consider the prodigal son for a second? Didn’t he deserve some punishment for his behaviour? Had his father turned him away wouldn’t we have sided with the father? Had the father agreed to treat him as a servant would we have seen anything wrong with it? Did the son really deserve all of this sacrifice? Now let’s turn our attention to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, does it make any logical sense? God saw it fit to send Jesus to die on our behalf even though we were still in our sins and didn’t deserve it. If He could make such a great sacrifice for us when we didn’t deserve it, why on earth will we think we have to earn His blessing through tithing? It doesn’t make any sense!

That the church requires money is not reason enough. That people will refuse to give if they were given the option to give what they liked is hardly justifies it either.

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