Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Enabling Versus Helping

One day the younger son came to his father and said, “Father, eventually I’m going to inherit my share of your estate. Rather than waiting until you die, I want you to give me my share now.” And so the father liquidated assets and divided them. 13 A few days passed and this younger son gathered all his wealth and set off on a journey to a distant land. Once there he wasted everything he owned on wild living. Luke 15:12-13  The Voice

It is easy to get confused between helping, enabling and being a people pleaser.  My initial read of today’s verses sounded much like enabling.  Surely the father of the prodigal son was wise enough to know that his son was not going to take his share of the estate and invest it in Starbucks, Microsoft and Chipotle Mexican Grille.  Sure enough the son squandered his portion of the estate, competed with the pigs for something to eat, and finally returned home having been humiliated.

Obviously the son had a propensity to enjoy the finer things in life which I’m sure did not allude his father.  To provide for his son to indulge his fantasies seemed like the wrong thing to me.  This would be what I would consider enabling his son’s pseudo addiction.

Upon closer examination of the passage, with the help of others who are more astute than I, it appears that the father was a learned man of God who calculated the cost of liquidating some of his assets in the hopes that his son would learn a very valuable lesson.  In which case the father was helping his son to grow up by allowing him to suffer the consequences of his irresponsible actions.  That would be termed helping.

The father in this passage represents our Father.  The son represents you and me.  God is much too smart to be duped into enabling His children.  He also doesn’t need to be a people pleaser, acting in a way that earns Him favor with His sheep.  Instead God want his sheep to learn from their mistakes, suffer the appropriate consequences, and return home to their loving Father.  

Most of my life I have been a people pleaser and in a way I thought that was a good thing.  Then I heard a pastor say that people pleasing is a sin, for the primary reason that it is self-centeredness, i.e. because the only reason for trying to please everyone was is to be accepted and liked.

The point is that we each need to distinguish which motive is driving our actions.  The loving response is to help the other individual to seek God’s will for their life.

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