I'm reading the book "Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller right now, so many of these thoughts in this blog are borrowed from his ideas.
The basic premise of the book is examing in detail the parable of the man who had two sons in Luke 15. We often refer to this parable as the prodigal son, but in doing so we miss the impact of the elder son's role in this story as well. I encourage you to re-read this story before reading any further.
One son chooses to walk away from his father, while the other chooses to play it safe and do everything "right." But what is impacting me the most in regards to these two sons is that they were both after the same thing...control over their father's resources. One chose to demand his inheritance up front, while the other kept 'slaving away' in order to ensure he achieved the 'good son' label. The end of the story sees the father welcome back his younger son into his home with a huge party. The elder son receives the same invitation to be a part of this celebration, yet chooses not to.
This inspired me to think about what this means in my own life. There is a stark difference between playing church and living church. Playing church refers to doing all the right things, while living church focuses on the motivation and intent behind one's actions. It is so easy to fall into the habit of doing something for someone in order to get something in return. As followers of Christ, we can easily become engulfed in blind ambition as we seek to earn a greater reward. In doing so, I think we merely personify the character of the elder son from this parable. We do all the right things, but not for the right reasons.
I can only imagine if I approached my marriage to Bonny in this fashion...oh boy would I be in for it!! Over time, she would be able to see through my motivations and notice the lack of authenticity in my behavior. And what would I be accomplishing in this pursuit? Ultimately, the destruction of the most important human to human relationship I have.
Instead, my actions in my marriage must be rooted in authenticity. I do because I love, not because I have to or need to...but because I choose to.
Let me pose this question to you. What are you doing for God that can be categorized in the same fashion as the life of the elder son from this parable? Remember that the expectations of God vastly outweigh the expectations of other people. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. No matter how good of an actor or actress you are, you're not fooling anyone, let alone God almighty.
Authenticity is a dangerous word...but it's really truly the only way to live.