Week of July 19 – 24
What is God like? – Man as Provider

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:22-24 ESV

What is God like? Is He friendly, caring, and approachable? Or is He stern, angry, and hostile? Is He a Cosmic Killjoy, who tries to steal all the fun out of life? Or is He a sentimental, doting Grandfather with no real concern as to how we ought to live? Or instead, is He a disinterested, preoccupied Deity with better things to do than mess around with the likes of us? Or is God just an impersonal Force, as portrayed in the famous Star Wars movies? People have all kinds of thoughts about what God is like.

Thankfully, Jesus tells us stories called parables that paint unforgettable pictures of what God is really like. His Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 has been called the greatest short story ever told. It has been the text for millions of sermons. The reason? This story resonates with us at the deepest levels. It also has much to say to us as men about our role as Provider.

Now, some might look back through this famous story and get the idea that being a provider simply means providing an inheritance for our children since that is what the rebellious son asked for first and what the father provided (v. 12). Others might read this story and think that being a provider for our family essentially means providing food and clothes and a roof over their heads because the father also provided that when the rebellious son returned (v. 22-23). Yes, providing for material needs now and for the future are both parts of being a provider, but there’s something more here.

Beyond the obvious, what did the father provide the rebellious son in Jesus’ story? One major thing he provided was freedom. He bowed to his son’s hurtful request, which essentially meant: “I wish you were dead” because that’s when heirs traditionally receive their inheritance. Yet, this father generously gave the money to his son and let him go. The man gave the boy his freedom. As tough as that was—and is—we have to provide our children with the freedom to succeed or fail on their own. Sometimes failure is a more powerful teacher than success. This lesson was clearly in the story of the prodigal son.

However, an even greater gift the father provided was forgiveness. When the son returned, the father didn’t wait for him to get to the porch; in fact, he didn’t even let his son finish his rehearsed speech (see v. 18-19, then v. 21). The father ran to greet him, embraced and kissed him, clothed and fed him, and affirmed and celebrated him—all signs and symbols of this father’s gracious forgiveness. Guys, I can’t begin to tell you how important that is for your children and grandchildren. They are all going to blow it. (I know that’s hard to believe about your grandchildren, but it is scripturally true.) While we must hold them accountable and dispense appropriate discipline, at the end of it all we must provide forgiveness. Just like the father did in the story. Just like our Heavenly Father does for us.

I’ve told you about the heartbreak in my own family with my own “prodigal son.” Because of his drug use, one of the hardest things I ever had to do as a father was to tell my 15-year-old he couldn’t continue to do that and live under my roof. And it was tough to let him go, but when he packed his things and I dropped him off, I told him: “I love you. So, if you decide you love your family more than drugs, let me know and we’ll work something out.” And I drove away. I cried all the way home, but I loved that young man enough to draw a hard line. When my son humbled himself and returned, I was so happy to see him, welcome him back home, and joy filled our hearts.

That was a difficult time for our family, and I realize that kind of forgiveness doesn’t come cheap. Believe me, forgiveness is costly. It cost God the Father the fellowship and ultimately the life of His only Son to provide us with forgiveness. No greater price has ever been paid. But in light of that gracious provision of a loving Heavenly Father, we must provide the same to our family as well as to others.

What is God like? He’s like the father in Jesus’ story. Yes, He provides for basic material needs, both now and for the future, but He provides so much more—like freedom and forgiveness. And it is all motivated by His amazing grace, boundless mercy, and unending love.

  • Search your heart. Do you find it easier to provide for material needs than freedom and forgiveness?
  • What are some positive steps you could take toward providing these more costly gifts, especially forgiveness, to your family and friends?
  • Ask the Heavenly Father to help you provide for your family what He has so graciously provided for you.