Summary: Is our God too small? Do we labor under misconceptions about what he is really like? Isn’t it time that we seek to be more like God and give up trying to make him more like us?
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
March 25, 2001
IS YOUR GOD TOO SMALL?
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)
1/ Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2/ And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3/ So he told them this parable: ... 11b/ “There was a man who had two sons. 12/ The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13/ A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14/ When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15/ So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16/ He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17/ But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18/ I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19/ I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20/ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21/ Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22/ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23/ And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24/ for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25/ “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26/ He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27/ He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28/ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29/ But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31/ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32/ But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”
Some of you will know the name of J.B. Phillips, an Anglican bishop who wrote a number of books. One of his most popular books was a paraphrase of the New Testament. One of his other books was entitled Your God Is Too Small. In that book, Phillips exposed the views of God that we all hold to that are woefully inadequate. For example, there is the the “cosmic policeman,” a view of God in which he is standing just around the corner, waiting for us to slip up and break the rules. Or, there is the “indulgent old man,” a little senile but very friendly. Or the “frantic manager.” In this view, God’s got sweat on his brow because the world is in such a mess, and he is trying to hold it all together. It is likely that every single one of us here this morning has a conception of God that is, at least to some degree, skewed. Our views of God may be distorted because of our background, or our experiences, or perhaps simply because of our ignorance. And we don’t realize that we are actually worshiping an idol. Much of our lives and much of our time are spent worshiping a figment of our own imaginations, and what we fail to realize is that God exists independently of our views of him. The God who is there exists as he is regardless of our woefully inadequate ways of thinking about him. And our goal as Christians ought to be to bring our understanding of God in line with the truth of who he really is.