{Matthew 7:21-23; ESV}

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

This attitude is clearly that of the elder brother. Why is he so angry with his father? He feels he has the right to tell the father how the robes, rings, and livestock of the family should be deployed. In the same way, religious people commonly live very moral lives, but their goal is to get leverage over God, to control him, to put him in a position where they think he owes them. Therefore, despite all their ethical fastidiousness and piety, they are actually rebelling against God…If, like the elder brother, you seek to control God through your obedience, then all your morality is just a way to use God to make him give you the things in your life you really want.

Timothy Keller, Prodigal God, pp. 38-39

Questions to consider:

  • Why is it surprising to see Jesus telling religious people to “depart” from him?
  • Have you ever felt like your good behavior should give you leverage with God?
  • What is the purpose for our moral behavior?
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