So I was listening to Alistair Begg today in the car (if you haven't ever heard him, his preaching is dynamic) and he was preaching on the well-known parable of The Lost, or Prodigal, Son. Something he said plunged me into deep thought and towards a penetrating truth, revealing something I had never seen in the parable before.
Before I explain what he pointed out, I want to give a little background. I have struggled with my self-worth over the years. I think for a good portion of my early life I was depressed because I had trouble seeing myself as worth anything. I became a Christian at a young age and I have loved God so much for a long time. And even though my head knows that I am saved not by works, my heart has worried about works over the years, wondering if I have done enough to please God. It's not salvation so much that I have worried about (though a few times it has been), it's more will God be pleased with me when I get to heaven? A lot of that worry has been resolved knowing the truth about the judgment (see this post here for more details), but it still crops up now and then.
Back to the parable of The Lost Son. Alistair pointed out that in the parable the son begins by saying, "Give me" and ends by saying, "Make me." This is what sent me into great thoughtfulness. The son at first wants the Father to give him his inheritance, give him his rightful share of the Father's stuff. I'm sure we can't delve too deeply into what that stuff is because it might have very little meaning at all except to show the son's disregard for the Father. But I wonder if we could take some liberty and say that we want God to give us all the stuff he owns: money, power, things for our own selfish use. But when the son loses it all and comes to the end of himself, he sees the fleetingness of the stuff and then remembers his Father and how he treats even his hired workers so well. He determines to go home and say to his Father in repentance, "Make me like one of your hired men."
So he goes home and the Father rushes to him and kisses him and the son says his spiel, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." And he can't even get to the "make me like a hired man" part because the Father goes ecstatic wanting to party over his son who has come home. And that's when it hit me: the Father has no interest in getting another hired man. The son had decided he was just going to beg the Father to make him a hired man and the Father doesn't want to do that. He wants a son, not a hired man.
What made me think about this in relationship to worth was that the son looks at his dirty life feeding pigs and thinks that he has nothing to lose by going back to his father. But he doesn't see himself worth anything more than being a hired man. How many times have I thought that I'm not worth anything, that I'm a sinful human being who God must despise? I approach God with this attitude, begging to somehow gain a little of his kindness, but how does he respond? He doesn't want a hired woman. He wants a daughter. He throws off any idea that I'm not worth the party. He doesn't even want me to beg him to accept me like a hired woman. He accepts me fully as a daughter in his kingdom.
And what about after the son is in the home again? The parable doesn't go on, but it would be incongruous for the Father to say, "Well, you really aren't being as good as I thought you would when you came home, so I'm kicking you out of this house." The impression you get in the parable is the Father has accepted the son entirely, for eternity. I think a lot of my life I've spent time worrying that God isn't going to be pleased and either kick me out of his house or give me what for for not being good enough, turn me into a hired woman. But the Father accepted the son back just as he was--without money, dirty with pig slime, hungry and empty. Just like the son, I don't have to be perfectly clean for God to love me. He just wants me in his home no matter what.
*I was reminded of this short film while writing this. I highly recommend watching it: The Gospel.