Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Open Letters to my Grandchildren # 1: A Different Kind of Substance Abuse

It's everywhere -- talk of substance abuse. Which makes sense since addiction is a serious problem.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about right now. Today, I want to talk about the prodigal son's particular kind of, "substance abuse."

The prodigal son, as you probably know, pestered his dad to give him his inheritance early. He didn't want to wait for his father to die to get what he figured was coming to him.

Once you know the story, you might think it would have been a good idea for his dad to tell him, "No way!" But that's not what happened.

What did happen, as the Bible tells us, was that the son went off and had himself one big long party. (If you don't know what happened next, check it out in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-32.)

What interests me, and what I want to talk to you about today, is the way the son's actions are described. There's actually not a whole lot of description, although it's easy to imagine what he was up to. What we do find, is this phrase:

he "wasted his substance with riotous living."

(This is from the King James Version of the Bible -- other translations word things a little differently, and may be easier for you to understand, but this is the phrase I'd like you to remember - always.)

He wasted:

Prodigal didn't use what he'd been given the way he should have. He more or less threw it away. He got no real value out of it. That's often the case when something comes too easily. A person often values what they work for more than what they're given.

his substance:

Now this is the phrase that interests me the most, and the one I am asking you to really, really, think about. At first glance, it's easy to think this just means he wasted the inheritance his father had given him. But it goes far beyond that.

Substance, if you look it up, is described as what a thing is made up of. So, yes, the son wasted the substance of what he'd been given -- whatever money and other valuables he had. But there's more to it. Because he also wasted his personal substance.

He threw away his personal qualities, the gifts God gave him. He trashed his own character, his honour and it was worthless. Except, it wasn't. It was more valuable than anything else he had.

with riotous living.

This doesn't need a lot of explanation. He was having himself good time. At least, he thought he was. (He also thought he was popular, until his circumstances changed and everyone disappeared.) I wonder how many regrets he had while he was eating pig slop and living in poverty. 

You're smart enough to draw your own conclusions on whether this so-called good time was worth the cost. Because everything has a price.

And finally, why all of this matters to each of you.

As you make your way through life you will have to make a lot of decisions. They won't all involve money and material values, but almost everything you do will involve your personal value. Who you are. How you treat others. How you treat yourself -- your mind and your body. 

Don't waste your substance. 

No comments: