“If you give people a little extra every day, eventually they will come to expect a little extra EVERY DAY.” I once read an article about contentment and gratitude. The writer asserted, “If you are not content with what you do possess, you will never be content should it be doubled.” I have encountered people, children and adults, who have an excess of material and relational wealth, and they continue to look for the next thing that will make them happy. In 2012, I discovered how shallow possessions are and how thankful I was for those who would support and love me regardless of previous relationship. When Christmas came around, I was asked, as usual, what I wanted for Christmas. I had been blessed by friends and family in ways I could not repay, so my response was simple. I want to know that I mattered.
Leviticus 26:3-18, and 40-46 offers God’s promises for a wealth of great living conditions, good relationships with other countries, success in their growing and harvesting of crops, as well as resting in His Presence. His single requirement is to obey His commands and offer thanks. Like any parent, having sacrificed and given our children our very best, we simply ask for respect and honor due. In the second passage, God sets up what is available, should the Israelites fail to do as they were commanded but later repent. They will be forgiven and God’s favor will rest upon them again.
There is a parable found in Luke 15:11-32. It tells the story of a loving father, and two sons, one who left with his share of his inheritance and the other who remained faithful. In the end, the debt suffered by the father, the dishonor shown, and the relationship broken meant nothing to the father who welcomed the prodigal son home. The remainder of the story details the son who remained but feeling unappreciated. He is told all that he always had, he still had. Their relationship and his father’s favor never changed.
Many may read the words in Leviticus and view God as vengeful and egocentric for saying that if the Israelites did not obey and remain steadfast in their devotion, ill would fall upon them. Many more would see the salvation message as God promising punishment of Eternal Suffering if a relationship is not maintained with God. We often want to look at the good in our lives as us doing the right things and the “bad” that we encounter as God punishing us. Sadly we ascribe the role of “vengeful God” when we are unhappy but not “loving Father” when life is good. Despite our fickled feelings, God remains the same, the balance of justice and mercy.
Much like the relationship with the father in the parable, once the son removed himself from the Father’s protection and provision, he was on his own, by his own choice. Hard times were experienced, because he was separated from the fortune he had available. The father had not blackballed his son or pulled strings to make his son’s life miserable so that the son was forced to return home. While the money was plentiful, the son lived life with friends and fans surrounding him. But once the “well ran dry”, so did his “friends” affections and desire to be his friend. The father had no role in his choice of friends nor his friend’s responses to his son when he was out of money and benefits to them.
The son suffers the consequences of his own actions and remembers the father that was good and had given him everything he ever wanted. The son reasons that his life could be livable if he could be hired on as one of his father’s employees. His estimation of his own life was knowing he had done everything wrong, dishonored his loving father,and believed he was no longer worthy or welcome being his father’s son. He returns home and as soon as he is within sight of his father, who was waiting for him to return, conceivably every day since he departed, his father breaks all societal norms and runs to his son, kissing him and embracing him warmly. It is undignified and unbecoming to his station. The father doesn’t care. His son has returned. Once the relationship was restored, the father saw no difference between him and his brother.
We have the opportunity to serve and be loved by a Father that possesses and provides unlimited affection and life. We only have to be His children and desire a relationship with Him. Our lives may not be safe from hard times or discomfort, but it is promised to be safe from having to live it without the blessings that Our Father gives to all of His children, regardless of what we have done. Today is where he loves us and yesterday is gone for those who choose to live under the provision and protection of the God who is worthy of all we have to give Him.
Do I praise God for His blessings or blame Him when I have left His care?
Do I enjoy God’s love and relationship, or believe it entitles me to more?
Never understanding why
Running far away from the truth
And all along chasing after liesI have loved you from the beginning
Long before you knew my name
Even though you’ve broken my heart
I’ll love you just the same
I’ll love you anywayNever mind your worries
Never mind your fears
They can only take you far from me
When you feel there’s nowhere
Left for you to turn
Well, I got all you want
And everything you need
Come on back to meDo you believe in second chances
Or in a love that never fades
Put your faith in what you can’t see
Just put your hand in mine
And I’ll show you the way