The Prodigal Son

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It is all right to buy things, enjoy things, shop around and find what is good as well as good bargains. But if your life consists only of that, you will be a shallow person. You will be just one more case of a shallow person arrested in growth at the materialistic stage. To lead a full life, which I believe you sense instinctively inside, you have to include a  spiritual life. Otherwise you will be warped and shallow.

There is nothing wrong with having things or not having things. It is a matter of personal choice, but  people are more important than things. May a spiritual person have things? I do not see why not. In the Bible Job had things, but he did not see them as proof of God, and when they were taken away, Job did not lose faith in God. His being without things was just a phase God allowed Job to go through, to be test and deepen Job’s spiritual growth.

Job did not lose faith in God over the loss of things, but all his neighbors and “false comforters” advised Job to curse God and die. Why? They were not genuinely spiritual people. They put things and appearances  first. That is not Christian. So do not look down on people having hard times. Respect them. You too might be placed in a phase of poverty as Job was to test your spiritual growth, deepen it, and to see if you know from your values and priorities what comes first in the Kingdom of God.

Of course a spiritual person may have things, but a spiritual person does not live for things. You are to own things, not have them own you. And if you are a truly Christian person, you cannot be completely happy while there are miserable people lacking the basic necessities of life around you. With the poor your duty is to share as you can. But God does not expect that you give away everything at the sight of the wretched poor. What good would that do? I saw misery so I put myself into misery? No, do not put yourself into bankruptcy, but share with the poor and needy according to what God has blessed you with.

If you want seriously to help someone, consider giving them a “skill” or some sort of “schooling” so those in need may earn some of what they need. That helps their self-respect. Do not just give “welfare checks for doing nothing,” as they did in America for years.

The spiritual question to consider is: if you are sick, miserable, wretched, poor and starving, can you attain spirituality? Perhaps, but it will be a miracle of grace. As far as I can see, the bottom rung is misery where only amoral concern for survival is common. We must have great patience with these. How can the miserable be altruistic? Often they survive in the street like mongrel dogs.

The second rung is people acquire basic necessities. We still cannot expect too much from these, but they are moving up the steps toward having some regular work and security. When people have some security, they can then work on fulfilling their needs, achieving some economic happiness and emerging as civilized human beings aware of spiritual growth.

We should face that prosperity is a tough issue young people have to deal with. When young people have some economic security, they are then at a cross roads. Do they make materialistic fools out of themselves or do they begin slowly inching up the ladder of spiritual civilization? The Prodigal Son in the parable of Jesus in Luke: 15 11-32 made the wrong choice, became a materialist, learned a lot he didn't like learning, then returned home.

The Prodigal was very fortunate to have the type of parent who did not say, “I told you so.!” But the father was positive and kept his mouth shut when he could have said a lot of things he might have enjoyed saying.  The Prodigal’s father was a wise man. I advise you as parents to follow his example. Bite your tongue if you have to, but refrain from saying what isn’t going to help the situation. A hug and something positive said is all you need. The love of God experienced opens to you . But it is not an escape from reality to the spiritual. It is a transformation of reality through the spiritual.

It is my suggestion you live as full a life of grace as you can. Do not stop climbing in grace until you have gone to every floor. Every stage in life has its graces and its loves. Do not fall short of the last and the  greatest stage: the great love we find in God. You know it waits for you because you may have experienced the other types previously. God’s Love is the next natural plateau of awareness offering the ultimate  perspective in grace. Why not experience the greatest and the best: the awareness of God Who Is. Love?

Jesus said that in God’s house were many mansions: “if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John:  14:1) I think these mansions are devoted to the types of love God nurtures through common and special grace that we may enjoy and celebrate here and after here. I tell you the highest of these is “agape,” the Greek word for the love of God. I advise you not to miss out on it. If it were not real, I would have told you. But I know it to be real. I would not have your life meaner, thinner and emotionally poorer for not knowing this and being without it.

Are you not aware “that man shall not live by bread alone?” (Luke 4:4)   I would rearrange this to observe: a person may live by bread alone, but he will not live well. He will be miserable, non-spiritual, mean and hostile. One more mere materialist in our Stone Age of Mere Materialists loose on the world. Surely in your living you can go or find a finer, higher plane of life than a Stone Age life without the refinement of spiritual qualities? 

Making money can make or break a family or an individual. Money can also be the cause of a lot of Prodigal Son experiences in the family. Remember the younger people who make money are going to spend money. Just see they make it first and that in their jobs they learn responsibility.  

There is nothing inherently wrong in making money, spending money, or finally saving money to accumulate capital. Remember Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." There is a time to make money, a time to spend money, a time to save money, a time to share money. "He hath made every thing beautiful in His time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) When dealing with money, what is important is figuring out what time it is for you. Also to remember others are not necessarily running on your time clock. 

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.