JOPLIN, Mo. —
The battle between old versus new has been waged for as long as man has walked the earth.
"Old" is not unworthy just because it is old, and "new" is not worthy just because it is new. It's a difficult challenge for a new idea to be accepted, yet every idea was once a new idea, fighting to justify itself. That process might take years, centuries, or it might not happen at all.
Neither is "old" old because of its age. Old truth will stand as truth until something more true comes along.
In my prior column I shared my opinion that viewing "prosperity" and good health as blessings from God is an old idea. Jesus took the Old Testament's idea of prosperity blessing and transformed it into spiritual blessing; God's blessings are to be associated with God's kingdom, which is spiritual.
So, if prosperity and health are not indicative of God's favor, and the loss of prosperity and health are not indicative of God's disfavor, then what is? How do we experience blessing from God? What happens in life when God is ignored?
There are two challenges we face answering this question. One is the fact that our society is steeped in materialism. It is difficult to see more value in the spiritual and less value in the material. We love our things.
A second difficulty is the otherness of God. God is other than human and mankind is other than deity. We can think and talk about God only in human language, which is inadequate at best. God bridges that gap through Jesus, and he becomes God's word to us.
Jesus tells us about a father who had two sons, one of whom squandered his inheritance while the other son distanced himself from his father because of his hurt feelings.
The story goes that the younger son decided to strike out on his own. He knew what he wanted in life. He knew what was best for him. He no longer needed his father to tell him how to live. He could fend for himself. And the father allowed him to take leave of his presence.
For a while, it felt like this new lifestyle was working. We assume so, because the boy was gone for some time. The father waited.
Eventually, the day came when the father saw the boy returning. He recognized him, of course; how could he not? Rather than wait for an apology and a request for forgiveness, the father rushed to greet and welcome home his son.
Questions, lectures and scolding were unnecessary. Coming home, humbled and contrite, was testimony enough that the young son recognized his foolishness. Imagine that he thought he could make it on his own! Everyone was happy, even the servants.
Everyone, that is, except the older brother. He had been the good son Ñ loyal, faithful, honorable and true. He deserved more. From the outside, it would appear that he was more deserving.
But from the inside, in the eyes of the father, the problem affecting both sons was the same: They cared mostly for themselves.
This story portrays the kingdom of God. When we love God with all our heart and soul, and when we love our neighbor as ourselves, life works beautifully.
There are blessings of peace, love and joy. There is the blessing of a balanced life in this unbalanced world. There is the blessing of knowing how to face death and mortality. Spirituality is valued rather than materialism.
What more could we want?
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.