Prodigal Children (Part 2) – Whose Fault is it?

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 NASB)

That verse can be a puzzle to a family in crisis. They have watched this little one turn against them and the God they love with such fierceness it takes their breath away. What happened to the fairytale picture? And, frankly, this doesn’t seem like much of a gift or a reward.

We all do the job of parenting imperfectly so when our children turn their back on God we blame ourselves. We were either too hard or not hard enough. Whichever side we err on we wish we had gone the other way.

There will also be plenty of people to point out our short comings. Society and the church blame the parents for a troubled child. They say things like, If only you had…

loved them more

spoiled them less

given them more rules

given them less rules

loved them unconditionally

set more boundaries

given tough love

built up their self-esteem

given them more responsibility

worked on projects together

given them more freedom

allowed them to be their own person… the list is endless.

Because of these reactions many parents of prodigals go underground. They know their child is in trouble, but they don’t want to be honest with the church at large for fear they will be ostracized.

If you are under the mistaken impression that only bad parents have troubled children take a look at Genesis 3. God was a hands on parent. He formed Adam and breathed life into him. He loved Adam and Eve perfectly and unconditionally. They had an extensive father/son project in naming all the animals. He gave them the responsibility of tending and caring for the garden. He gave them many “yesses” and only one “no”. He spent time walking with them in the cool of the day. Then God, the perfect parent, watched his children turn away in rebellion. When confronted Adam tried to shift the blame to Eve and even God. (Genesis 3:12) There is no blaming God for the result. The rebellion was not because of a mistake in parenting.

This is a problem as old as time and yet we still expect children from Christian homes to fall perfectly in line. When they don’t, we usually find fault with the parents. In our blame shifting world we forget that our children are ultimately responsible before God for the decisions they make. We, as imperfect parents, are going to give them plenty of excuses to disobey. But when God says, “Children, obey your parents,” there isn’t an escape clause that says “only if your parents are doing it right.”

We are responsible before God to be the best parents we can be. We need God’s daily grace to even come close to that goal. We must also remember that our children are responsible before God to obey. They need God’s daily grace to follow the instructions of imperfect parents.

If you are a parent with a prodigal, don’t despair. The pain you are feeling has been felt by God many times over. You have something in common with the God who created you. While your pain is awful it doesn’t compare with what God feels. He is showing you a bit of His own experience. I pray that it will cause you to cling to Him all the more fiercely.


Prodigal Children (part 1) – Some Definitions

What does prodigal mean? This is how Merriman/Webster defines it.

Prodigal – “Characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure.”

When I think of children I relate it to how they are “spending” their lives. They are wasting their lives on temporary treasure. They are spending their time pursuing anything but the good God who paid an awful price for their soul.

Prodigals come in many packages. There are those that are blatantly rebellious. They refuse to follow their parents rules. Often that leads to being in trouble with the law. Pursuing physical physical thrills is high on their agenda which means they are involved in the abuse of drugs, alcohol and sex.

Then there is the previously compliant child who is swept away by the world’s viewpoint and values. They have “outgrown” their parents values and faith. They have found something more interesting or compelling to hold their attention. Their wanderings aren’t as violent, but they are just as dangerous.

Next are some that are doing exceptionally well by the world’s standards, but they have abandoned the faith their parents so carefully taught them. They may be gifted academically, musically and/or physically and their life is spent wastefully on those pursuits. The talents they were given as a way to glorify God have now become their god.

Finally, there are those who live a double life of sorts. They come to church and may even be quite involved, but their hearts are somewhere else. They are like the Pharisees who knew how to appear righteous, but their hearts were wick. They are spending their lives on religious check lists in public and their own passions in private. This verse sums it up.

“Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote.”  (Isaiah 29:13 NASB)

We tend to think of the first example as prodigals. We don’t often classify the others the same way. All of them are in danger. All of them need to turn to the God who made them.

If we are honest there is a prodigal of sorts in all of us. We are wastefully spending our short and precious life on many things that have nothing to do with God. Just maybe, watching our own children pull fiercely away from God will cause us to cling to God more passionately.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are a s scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB)