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The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

November 22, 2009

Timothy Keller has written a short little book that spoke to my heart in a deeply moving way. His take on Jesus’ parable that we usually call “The Prodigal Son” was like a breath of fresh air. Keller looked at the broader context of the story and found lessons for us in all the characters, not just the younger son. He also makes a convincing case that the biggest lesson is to be drawn from the older brother. He compares the highly religious Pharisees to the older brother in his misunderstanding of the father’s extravagant grace toward the younger brother. The book’s title is a little shocking, but it is explained in the introduction.

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment. This response offended the elder son and most likely the local community.

Keller is a gifted writer who communicates the truth of this parable in a fresh, understandable fashion. I cannot recommend The Prodigal God highly enough. You will not be disappointed.

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