In Luke 15 the prodigal son rebels against his father gratutitously, offensively and deliberately. He jets off to Las Vegas and blows the old man's cash on call girls, buys himself into the high life and does everything possible to make sure that he is beyond the reach of the father's love. If anyone ought to be disowned, he ought to be. He is deliberately, self-consciously not worthy of the father's love, by his own hand and his own choice.
The temptation for me isn't to blast into hedonism. Its to drift into it. We have just had our house redecorated. Boy did it need it. Now it looks really nice and I am tempted to think "I am doing OK in life because I have some nice antique copper ceiling lights! And, hey, that's OK because its not the pleasure seeking of the prodigal son."
Ceiling lights, not prostitutes. There is a qualitative difference. Ceiling lights can be morally neutral. Prostitutes aren't. Is it wrong to have lights in my house? No. But is it be wrong to while away my life thinking how I can improve and trade up so that my delight is in my house? Absolutely.
I am so sinful. I can relatvise away the stroy of the younger son by saying "I don't pursue pleasure in the same way he did, so it doesn't apply to me." I can ignore it because my pursuit of hedonism is likely to be by subtle drift, not wild plunge. He fled to the far country to escape the father. I can get there instead by little increments, none severe enough in themselves to tell me to stop. His rebellion was blatant and offensive. Mine is much more likely to be restrained, pleasant and English.
The older you get, the more that comfort is going to be something that you expect to have as a right. One thing I am starting to think about right now is why junior leaders in churches tend to come from among the young not from among the 50-55s. Might it be that the 50-55s are thinking "I have one more chance to move up, from 4 bedrooms to 5, before I retire. That's what the last 10 years of employment are like. That's what I deserve, that's what I have worked for." Beware! You are drifting into the far country. Your spiritual senses will be anaesthtised, your passions for the Lord dulled, your usefulness for the Kingdom extinguished. You will live a mediocre Christian life.
Church leaders reading this, might it be time to start challegning our 50s like this: how about you use the next 10 years to accomplish for the Lord some of the stuff you dreamed about in your 20s? How about you trade down and use the money to finance your ministry? How about you leave your job and work in the church or in missions? But whatever you do, make sure you are not drifting into subtle hedonism that says "comfort is the expected norm for Christians."