Have you heard the term “Cheap Grace”?
Let me say that over the last 3 years of our Prodigal Journey, we have learned that Grace may be free, but it is by no means cheap. And looking at the story of the Prodigal Son, I believe Jesus was preparing us for this very fact.
grace is free, but it is not cheap
Comedian Michael Jr. has a bit he did at a concert where he pulled a guy out of the audience and had him sing Amazing Grace. It was beautiful and brilliant. Then Michael Jr asked him to sing the version where your uncle just got out of jail and you were shot in the back as a kid. It was a different version with heart and passion. The first was technically sound, the second was full of passion and purpose.
I have found that as I have revisited the story of the prodigal son, as a Father of a prodigal myself, I find new and deeper purpose in the parable.
Just recently, it hit me that in this story, Jesus reveals to us that grace may be free, it is not by any means cheap.
So think about the story. A man has two sons. One wants his now. And he has the audacity to ask his father for his inheritance now.
Before we move on let’s catch the full ramifications of what is being asked for here:
- First, as I am sure you have heard a thousand preachers say, he might as well have said “I wish you were dead” and “I am tired of waiting for the payday that comes with your death”.
- But secondly, a majority of his inheritance would have been tied up in land and livestock, so it is quite possible that the younger son would have had to sell family land and livestock to get his money which would have served as a constant reminder of his betrayal as his father, brother and his father’s servants would be able to look out and see land and livestock that once belonged to the family now in another’s hands.
The son goes off and squanders his new found riches—a third of his father’s wealth.
After it is squandered, the younger son finds himself on hard times with no friends and no family and he wants to go home.
Coming home, his father restores him with a robe, a ring and sandals. He is welcomed, restored not as a servant, but as a son and his needs are met—he is fed, clothed and his feet are sandal-ed.
Well let’s think about this for a moment. With what did the father restore the younger son. The son’s third of the inheritance is gone leaving only two sources for the prodigal’s restoration.
- Since we do not know how long the son was gone, we may assume that the father had been industrious and through his investments and his servant”s hard work, he had grown his wealth and there was more land and more livestock and even more money.
- Or—and based on the older son’s negative response, I think this may be the more reasonable response—the restoration came from the other brother’s share of the inheritance.
Either way, grace is freely given, but it is not cheap to give. It is costly.
If you have a prodigal child, it is costly to restore them. Whether swallowing your pride on how they have injured and embarrassed you or helping them get back on their feet, grace is not cheap.
If you have been betrayed by a spouse or a friend, it is costly to restore them. Whether releasing your claim to justice or paying for counseling or losing standing in your circle for taking them back when you have every right to cast them aside, grace is not cheap.
And for God, grace was freely given but not given cheaply as He gave His one and only Son that you and I might have life and have it abundantly.
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