Book Review: Prodigal God

“The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith”, by Timothy Keller

Keller has quickly become one of my very favorite authors. This, his second book, follows just a year behind his first book: “The Reason for God”. This one is a short book, easily readable in one sitting, though you may want to break it up into smaller sections to let it resonate.

In this book, Keller makes the case that the parable told in Luke 15:11-32, commonly referred to as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son”, would be better known as the “Parable of the Prodigal God”. The word “prodigal” refers to unnecessary, extravagant expenditures. This parable is really telling us how lavishly God pours out His grace on us!

This passage, Keller says, contains the best illustration of the Gospel in all of Scripture, for it identifies two types of sinners: Those who selfishly devote themselves to worldliness (the younger brother), and those who devote themselves to righteousness, but not to a relationship with the Father (the older brother). Jesus spoke this parable to the Pharisees, who would have been outraged by its conclusion: The younger brother, who everyone knew was a sinner, is forgiven and lavished with the Father’s love, as he is invited into the feast. The older brother, who had the appearance of righteousness, is left outside the feast, refusing to enter into his Father’s feast because he is angry that his Father has forgiven his brother. He served his Father, not out of love for Him, but as a means to an end. His brother’s forgiveness meant a reduction in his inheritance, and ultimately exposed his evil heart.

The message is clear: The Gospel is available to both younger- and older-brother types, but it is often more difficult for the older brothers to enter into the Father’s love. God’s riches are not earned through our own merit, but are given freely to those whom He calls. This book will challenge and convict you. Buy it here.

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