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Prodigal Sons, Prideful Hearts and Hollow Trees


Last week some high winds raced through my backyard and in their gushing and twisting and turning…..a large tree limb broke off and fell to the ground.

It’s amazing what’s discovered when storms race through our backyards and sometimes even our lives.

On the outside, the tree looked beautiful, strong and solid.

Yet through the pressure of the winds pushing the tree limb in one direction and then another…..it finally was too much. After years of “holding it all together”….the limb broke off and crashed to the ground.

I heard the noise from my kitchen as I was cleaning up from dinner. I rushed to the window to see what could cause such a disturbance. The sound was so loud I thought it was a car crash of some kind. To my surprise, I saw the large tree limb lying on the ground in my backyard.

Upon investigation of the limb, my husband and I noticed the inside of the tree branch was hollow. A disease had been eating away on the inside of this tree for years, unnoticed by those of us on the outside.

Today we had men come and cut the rest of our large, old, beautiful tree down. After having it evaluated by a tree specialist, it was recommended to have the tree removed for fear of further damage it could cause when another storm hits…..because there is always another storm coming.

As I thought about this tree, how beautiful it looked on the outside, yet on the inside was wasting away, my thoughts turned to the Pharisees we’ve been reading about in Luke these last few weeks. On the outside they looked perfect. They obeyed all the rules. Dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”……yet through their actions what was going on in the inside of their hearts was revealed. Their pride, self-righteousness and own sins were eating away at their hearts…..making them hollow.

In the next few days we will be reading one of my favorite parables…..The Prodigal Son. Normally I always focus my attention on the main characters of the story…..that of the father and his wayward younger son. Yet this time, I want to challenge you to focus your attention on the oldest son and his response to his father.

The oldest son in this parable is very much like the Pharisees we’ve been reading about. He was the “good” one. He stayed home. He worked the fields. He obeyed. Yet we see at the end of the story……..his motives weren’t pure. He did all these “good works” not because of his love for his father, but rather because of what he could get from his father. In many ways, this older brother was very much like his younger brother. He too wanted the father’s “things” rather than the father.


My sweet friends, as we live and lead like Jesus……let’s make sure we obey his commands out of our love for our Lord, rather than out of what we can get from him by “being good.”

False motives will in time be made visible, like hollow limbs falling from a tree.

Let’s push back against the pride and self-righteousness that can poison our hearts and make them hollow.

Our Lord is a loving father to both prodigal sons and prideful sons. He desires a relationship with both…..so much so he was willing to eat with them and die for them. He was willing to give his life to save them…to save us…to save me.



Love God Greatly!





Look at what else we found inside the tree…:)



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  1. Michelle Wall says:

    An important message and so beautifully written. Thank you for your leadership, Angela. (Mommy needed something like this today.)


  2. Kristen quinlan says:

    This was a fantastic illustration and a great read! Thank you!!!

  3. It’s true that it is easy to look good on the outside. However, how one looks on the inside is the only thing that really matters. Create in me a clean heart and a pure mind.

  4. Jennifer S says:

    The baby birds are a perfect example of how life comes from death… God is in EVERYTHING!!!

    • Angela says:

      I thought so too! I started to write about them being in the tree….but then the post started getting a little to long. :) That’s why I just included the picture. :)

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