This article was written by guest contributor, Mark Anderson
Upon his return home, the prodigal son was restored to his place in the family. The benefits of his father's prosperity were his once more. For some, this state of affairs may be the focus. The once destitute young man, struggling under the weight of his losses and missteps, now enjoyed prosperity, comfort, and security. He had "arrived."
What if it could be said that every person has "arrived"? What if every person had a good education, financial security, and access to anything and everything they desired? What if this state of affairs caused all war and conflict to cease and injustice to end? Would personal problems dissipate in exchange for happiness' embrace? Would we then have arrived, really arrived?
How well you manage life and accomplishment in this world is not the final point of living.
It would be tempting to think so. Who does not desire to be free from material want, the threats of insecurity, ignorance, injustice, and conflict?
As beneficial as they are, if these things were to be universally defined as the goal of living, the whole world would have missed the mark.
How well you manage life and accomplishment in this world is not the final point of living. This is one dimension of the parable of the Prodigal Son. He squandered his life away in the far country. But even if he had used his inheritance to make it, to arrive, to become a success in the far country, he would still have missed the point of living. Why? Because he would have still been estranged from his father. The point of his living would still have been defined by accomplishment, or lack of it, under the law.
We do not have God to be successful, to be healthy, to have peace, or to avoid squandering our lives in this way or that. The church, frequently tempted in this direction, often finds itself shipwrecked on the rocks of a shallow, prosperity gospel, the gospel of the God who is the means to an end. But God is not a means to an end. God is the end of living, the destination, the point of it all. Having God, we have enough. The fact of the matter is that God hasn't promised us anything else. God could have overwhelmed us with material prosperity and not made a dent in the celestial treasury. It would have cost him nothing of himself to establish us as creatures for whom material comforts would have been enough. But God wanted more for us.
There are few images in all of Scripture more poignantly beautiful than that of the joyful father, running to meet his child with open arms. The resulting restored benefits and renewed status of his son were signs of the father's deep love for him, but this was always the case. In the Gospel promise, given in Word and sacrament, God bestows himself in such a way as to open his heart in reconciling love for you, restoring you to himself. When you have him, know him, and are known by his merciful, forgiving love, you can truly say you are satisfied. Then you may say with the psalmist, "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days" (Ps. 90:14). For amid life's hurts and hopes, joys and sorrows, wins and losses you are held in the embrace of your living, loving Lord. And when you have him, you have everything.
Pastor Mark Anderson’s life experience has ranged from being a touring rock musician, to serving as an Air National Guard chaplain. He is a graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota and Luther Seminary. He is the author of Life in Christ: A Pastor’s Perspective. Pastor Mark is currently developing an online ministry focusing on pastoral ministry in association with Luther House of Study in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mark and his wife Linda enjoy traveling and to date have racked up 27 countries. They live in Coto de Caza, California, and have three grown children.