Dear Church Family,
A Parable of a Capricious Father
Once upon a time, there was a widowed father who loved his three sons more than anything in the world. From the time they were infants, he continually told them how much he loved them, and how much he wanted what was best for them. He was a farmer, so as his sons grew they began to help on the farm. Day in and day out, he and his children toiled side by side. They learned to plow, to plant, to cultivate the land. They learned to work hard.
Then one day, when his sons had grown, the father sat them down at the kitchen table. They had all worked a long day and were preparing for bed. In the dark, cool of the evening, the father looked at his sons and said, “You know that I love you and that I always wanted the best for you. Tomorrow, I will be leaving you to tend the farm for yourselves. I’m going away.”
So saying, the man got up and left his three shocked sons sitting at the table and went to bed. The next morning, he was gone – just as he said. As the three sons entered the kitchen, they found a note from their father: “Boys, I love you and you know that I want the best for you. You know how to work hard – to plow, to plant, to cultivate the fields – but I haven’t told you all that you need to know: how to rotate the crops, what kind of fertilizers to use, how to keep the books, who to contact to sell the produce, what to do in case of a drought, etc. These are important aspects of maintaining the farm. There’s a very specific and proper way to do these things. I know that you don’t know how to do them because I never taught you. Still, I’ve left clues for you around the farm. See if you can find them. Good luck! Love, Dad.”
The three sons, now left on their own, set out to find the clues that their father had left behind. They searched in his room, they searched the root cellar, they searched the barns. In desperation, they began to dig up the fields hoping to find some clue in hopes of learning the specific instructions for running the farm. They searched and searched, but never found the clues that their father had mentioned in the note. That night, tired and dirty from their futile endeavors, the three sons sat around the same kitchen table. The oldest broke the silence, “What are we supposed to do? What does Dad want?” The other two just stared back at him, and with sadness and desperation in their voices, they whispered in unison, “I have no idea.”
This parable is a sad story. The father seems to love his children – at least, at first. But then, as the story progresses, we learn that he’s not really that wise and loving after all. He actually seems capricious and unloving, doesn’t he? He says to his children that he loves them and wants the best for them, but he leaves them to tend the farm for themselves. And, even though he never taught them how to run the farm, he tells them that there are specific instructions about what to do – specific instructions that he’s never told them. So, they have to find the clues that he left for them concerning how to run the farm, on their own.
This parable illuminates the sin that the Apostle Paul warns fathers about: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21). The behavior of the father from this story would only exasperate his children, make them resentful and embittered. A father who exasperates his children is a father who sets up his children for failure, just as the father from this story did.
Seeking Wisdom: God’s Program of Guidance
It is, indeed, a sad story. Yet, this is how many Christians think God treats His children: God loves me and wants what’s best for me; however, God has some secret plan – a secret set of instructions about my life. The problem is that I don’t know what it is. So I’ve got to discover God’s secret will for my life by looking for the clues or signs that He’s left for me. What is God’s will? What am I supposed to do? What does my Heavenly Father want?
In his book Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? Bruce Waltke writes:
When we talk of ‘finding God’s will’ we generally want divine guidance on specific choices, but it should be noted that the term is never used after the Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost. The apostles, upon whom the Church is founded, do not teach that we are to seek God’s will in this way. Instead the New Testament offers us a program of the Father’s guidance that is based upon having a close relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Too often, Christians attempt to ‘find God’s will’ in a specific circumstance through some form of divination. They think that it’s God’s intention that His children discover the hidden clues that He capriciously hides here and there for us to find. This way of thinking stems from many things: a misunderstanding of our present place in redemptive history, misinterpretation and misapplication of certain Scriptures, isogesis, a fear of making the wrong decisions, immaturity, lack of wisdom, etc.
God has revealed His will in the Scriptures with regard to what we are to believe about God and what duty He requires of us (WSC 3); however, when it comes to specific choices about which God has not spoken in His Word, instead of looking for clues to His secret will, God gives us in the Scriptures a program of guidance so that we may develop wisdom. And, contrary to how many think of wisdom in terms of divine revelation, in the Bible wisdom is defined in terms of character: pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
In the adult Sunday school class this coming Sunday, we will begin our study of these things. In the first part of the series, we will examine what the Scriptures teach concerning ‘God’s will.’ In the second part of the series, we will examine ‘God’s Program of Guidance’ for developing the character of wisdom and making wise choices.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch