In Thailand, it is common to say that “All religions are good because they teach people to be good.” There is certainly some truth to this saying, since morality is a part of each religion. However, have you ever considered that sometimes someone’s goodness can actually be an obstacle to the most important things in life?
Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. One day, the younger son came and asked for his share of the inheritance … while his father was still alive! This request was shocking, since it was about the same as saying he wished the father was dead. However, the father agreed to this request, and not long afterwards the younger son gathered all he had and went to a far-away place and spent all he had on wild living. But as soon as he had run out of money, a famine came over the country and he began to starve. He found a job feeding pigs, but the pay was so bad that the pigs ate better than he did!
When his life got to the lowest point, the younger son “came to his senses”: “Even the hired men at my father’s house get plenty to eat, and here I am starving!” The son decided to return home, apologize, and ask his father to take him on as a hired servant.
Up to this point, it sounds like a good, religious story – ทำดีได้ดี ทำชั่วได้ชั่ว (“Do good and you’ll receive good; do bad and you’ll receive bad.”) Bad kid turns his life around and becomes a good kid. End of story? Not quite – at this point the story changes from religion to good news!
When the father sees the son coming a long way off, he jumps up, runs out to meet him and take him back as a son, unconditionally. There is total forgiveness because the father loves his son and is so glad to have him back. This is the greatest day of the father’s life, so he throws the biggest party the village has ever seen!
But then, the older son comes home from working in the field. The older son, who has been working hard all day every day, who never disobeys his father, the “good boy” who does his duty without fault. And when he hears that the younger son has returned he is livid, and refuses to go in to join the celebration. And can you blame him? How would you feel?
The father has to come out to beg the older son to come in and join the celebration. But the older son castigates his father for receiving “that son of yours” with a large feast. “It’s not fair! You’ve never given me even a little party.” How does the father know the younger son isn’t just back to get more money?
The father responds with patience and love: “My son, you are with me always, and all I have is yours. But when your brother came back we had to celebrate. He was dead and is now alive; He was lost and has now been found.” As far as the father was concerned, it never was about being good; it was all about love. And the father is pleading for the older son to return home!
The problem was that the older son’s heart has been just as far from the father as the younger son. But the father reaches out to the older son, wanting him to ‘return home’. The older son had been obeying the father, but only out of duty and for an eventual reward, not out of love.
What did the father want most of all? He wanted his sons to love him. Did he want them to be good? Oh, yes, but only obedience coming from love, not for duty or reward.
There was a man named Saul who was a religious teacher. He spent all his time studying Thamma of the Jewish people and following the religious rules and practices, and even persecuting those he thought were twisting the right teachings. But then one day he met Jesus, and his whole life changed. He had been like the older brother, but when he knew Jesus’ love and mercy, he knew the only proper response was to love God and follow him. He changed his name to Paul and spent the rest of his life telling others of the Good News of Jesus’ love and mercy. He compared his past experience of religion with his new love for Jesus in a letter: “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:4-8)
Dear reader, do you know that you have a merciful heavenly father who loves you and wants you to know him and enter into a wonderful life together with him? It doesn’t matter if you are more like the younger son or the older son in Jesus’ story: Your heavenly father is waiting with outstretched arms for you to come home and walk in His life of love, peace, hope, and truth.
If you want to know this loving, caring Father, you might want to pray this prayer:
Oh, Heavenly Father, I admit that I don’t know you and that I need you. Please show me yourself and touch my heart. Help me to know your love, and lead me home.
There are people who want to help you know God the Father’s love. One way to contact them (in Thai) is through www.kwamjing.net. There are lessons on this website, and people who can answer your questions and help you find a local group of people who love God and are seeking together to know him more. If you want help finding a local fellowship, contact me and I'll see if I can help.