What would cheap grace look like?

…The younger brother came to himself and said, ‘My dad’s an old softy.  I reckon if I returned looking sufficiently contrite he’d bail me out.  It’s worth a try anyway.’ he reasoned. 

And so he rose and made the journey back to his father rehearsing his sorry-spiel along the way.  ‘Father, my father.  I know I messed up.  I know I don’t deserve anything from you.  You’d be well within your rights to shun me forever.  But, father, my father,  I’m throwing myself on your mercy.  Here I am, your son – and I know you’re a good dad – will you help me out?’ 

By the time he got to his father’s house his speech was pitch-perfect.  He rang the door-bell and waited.  Eventually he heard his father’s shuffling steps, then the locks turning in the door, one after the other – four in all.  At last it creaked open a crack and the old man squinted up at his son. 

‘Father, my father.  I know I messed up.  I know I don’t deserve anything…’ began the prodigal.  The father’s look began to thaw.  The speech was good.  Perhaps the best yet.  By the end the old man couldn’t help but blurt out, ‘Ah my son!  You certainly know how to tug at my heart strings.  What can I do for you?’ 

The son took a moment to congratulate himself on such powers of persuasion.  ‘Well, father,’ he said, ‘wild living ain’t cheap!  And Lord knows how I’m going to afford my ticket back to the far country…’

‘Far country?  You want to go back?’ asked the father, his face falling.

‘Well just for now.  Unfinished business you see.  But I’m definitely planning on returning…’

‘…Because, son, you know there’s always room for you here…’

‘Yes, sure. Absolutely dad.  And I know I’ll be returning.  Probably quite often.  But there’s things I need to do and, well, I need your help.’

‘How much?’

‘Well there’s the ticket.  Then I need the deposit on a new place.  I’ve found the perfect pad – downtown, the ladies love it.  But that’s another thing,’ he said chuckling, ‘they sure are expensive those women!’

‘How much?’ he asked again.

‘It’s hard to put a figure you know dad, it could be anything.’

They looked at each other for a minute.  The father broke the silence.

‘Blank cheque then?’

‘Blank cheque would be great!  Yeah thanks.  Phew.  You’re a real life-saver dad.  Wow.  I’d hug you, but I’m a bit smelly from the pigs.  Speaking of which, do you have any food?  Ham sandwich maybe?’

‘Ham sandwich??  Look, come inside.  I’ll kill the fattened calf.  Tonight we’ll feast!’

‘Gosh, dad.  That’s sweet but I really don’t have time.  Listen, I’ll just grab something from drive thru.  The cheque’s fine.  And, now that I think of it, don’t make it out to the family name.  I’ve changed it.  Yeah, too many people were associating me with you and… well.  You know…’

Within five minutes the younger son was heading back down the drive.  He spotted his brother in the field and, holding the cheque aloft, called out.  “Ciao bro’!  Enjoy the slaving!”  

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Posted on by Glen in gospel, grace, parables, pastoral theology

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

6 Responses to What would cheap grace look like?

  1. codepoke

    Yeah, this is amusing. And it’s definitely cheap grace. And it helps draw the distinction between grace and license. I find myself in a position to offer someone cheap grace right now, though, and it’s really hard to know where that line is in real life. This helps a little.

    One of my favorite commercials of all time showed a list of symptoms a troubled teen might exhibit. Shortly thereafter it showed a list of symptoms a normal teenager might exhibit. Needless to say, they were identical. After the two lists the commercial just said, “You may need help telling the difference.”

    In real life, it’s hard to tell what’s “enabling” and what’s “redeeming.” If the son ran up some debts in far-away land, but wants to come live at home now, what’s enabling? When you just want to cry, will the real “valuable lesson” please stand up?

    It’s easier to hear the Spirit in a book than flesh. Thanks for helping.

  2. timothycairns

    I am in the middle of a five week series on Luke 15 in adult Sunday School – would you mind if I printed this out and gave it to the class on Sunday?

    it actually is a great way of putting what we were discussing last Sunday. So it will be a great review for the start of the class. I will properly attribute you and give them the web address!!

    This is a really imaginative thought

  3. glenscriv

    Hi Code,

    yes there are times when Jesus leaves us in our mess but times like Luke 15 where He embraces to redeem. We need the wisdom of Christ to know. I guess the only thing this re-telling highlights is that embracing is not the same as ‘enabling’. The grace of Jesus is not the ‘blank check’ variety, it’s too free and all-embracing for that! I’ll pray for wisdom about this situation.

  4. glenscriv

    Hi Tim,

    Of course you can use and you don’t need to attribute. Might even inspire some of them to write their own alternative endings. I was thinking of making this a series: In one the father’s sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, polishing his shot-gun. In another they sit down with a calculator and figure out a repayment scheme. There’s lots of ways of the story finishing. What I keep finding so remarkable is that the parable gives us the most free and full forgiveness married with the most complete and all-encompassing claim upon him. Hope the class goes really well.

  5. timothycairns

    Thanks Glen – those are some really good ideas!

  6. Pingback: A thousand posts in a thousand words « Christ the Truth

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