The Prodigal God

Tim Keller’s new book The Prodigal God. Keller uses the parable of the prodigal son as a backdrop for explaining the gospel message. The first thing readers might notice is the slightly offbeat title. Shouldn’t it be the prodigal son? Keller is quick to define the word prodigal as “recklessly extravagant” or “having spent everything.” This certainly adds a welcome twist to our typical understanding of the parable.

From the outset, Keller points out that this parable is just as much a story about the older brother and the father as it is about the younger son who squanders his inheritance. The book includes chapters on redefining sin, lostness and hope as well as expanding on the older brother and the feast of the father. These chapters each contribute to a fresh look at this familiar story. Keller’s writing wakes us up to parts of the parable we fail to see since many of us have heard the parable so many times and think we get it.

In his chapter on the elder brother, Keller draws out the explicit connection with the context in which Jesus told this parable. He was answering the Pharisees (Luke 15:1-2) and seems to be likening the Pharisees to the older brother. In doing so, he demonstrates their hypocrisy and makes a very important point.

This is a wonderful little book that is a useful tool for reminding us of our God’s grace and generosity. This book is a quick read and I would encourage people to take a look at it and pass it around to friends and family – both to those of the household of faith and to those who by God’s grace may one day be in it.


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