I Was Wrong, You Were Right

Being a high school and college student in the 90s, I was a huge Adam Sandler movie fan.  Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Wedding Singer have probably been watched more times than I care to admit. Happy Gilmore, in particular, stands out for a lot of hilarious reasons. The plot is about a washed-up hockey player named Happy Gilmore who can’t make the team but needs a way to make money so that he can buy his grandmother’s house back from the government. His grandmother hadn’t paid taxes in decades and was now living in an abusive retirement home run by a ruthless staff.

Along the way, Happy meets Chubbs Peterson a retired pro golfer who had to give up the sport after losing his hand in an unfortunate accident with an alligator on the course. Chubbs sees a lot of potential in Happy, but Happy wants to rush things and jumps right into professional golf due to his massively long drives off the tee. Chubbs warns Happy that he needs to learn the intricacies of golf BEFORE he goes out and embarrasses himself. Of course, Happy doesn’t listen and joins the tour only to make a fool of himself and lose his grandmother’s house. What happens next is a widely quoted line from the movie.

Having to swallow his pride, Happy goes to Chubbs and offers an apology. “I’m stupid. you're smart. I was wrong. You were right. You're the best. I’m the worst. You're very good-looking. I’m not attractive.” As funny as that apology is, Chubbs’ response is even funnier, as he says, “Okay, as long as you’re willing to admit that. Now, are you ready to work and do what I tell you?”

How many times do we mess up in life and need to go to God and apologize? Do we go to God like Happy and remember who’s really the greatest? Do we have that kind of humility to admit we were wrong? The Bible is full of stories of people who made horrible life choices only to humble themselves in the end in order to experience grace. One of my favorites is the story of the prodigal son.

“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.”
Luke 15:11–12

Most sin starts with selfishness. I want what I want, and I don’t want to wait for what I want. When self becomes our biggest motivator, we can convince ourselves that everything we do is fine as long as it makes us happy. This was the case with the man’s son. He knew that one day, he would receive a great inheritance from his father, but he didn’t want to wait to receive it. In his immaturity, he wanted access to something that wasn’t his yet. And what followed wasn’t pretty.

“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”
Luke 15:13–16

In what seems to be a very short time, the young man had lost everything. He squandered it on reckless living. I’ll bet he was the life of the party. He was the guy buying everyone drinks at the bar. If he saw something he wanted, he bought it. Unfortunately, if you aren’t making any money, you can’t replenish what you just spent, and this young man had to learn a very hard lesson. Now he’s looking for work, hungry and tired, and finding himself longing to eat the slop that the pigs are eating. If you’ve never seen pig slop, google it after this. It’s not a delicacy. Finally, he comes to his senses.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
Luke 15:17–19

The son remembers how good his life was before this and how well his father had treated his servants. The servant’s life with his father would be far better than what he was living at this point. He finally worked up the courage and headed off to his see his father.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:20–24

Imagine the shock that the son experienced when his father celebrated the return of his prodigal son. This young man had mistreated his father, was selfish beyond words, and abandoned his family only to squander the money he demanded from his father. What the son didn’t realize is that, by coming to his father in humility, he could now be where he belonged the whole time. His father WANTED to give him grace. He only needed to return. For many of us, that’s all God is asking of us…return. When we come to God in humility and honor Him for who He is, he will gladly show us grace, and I’m sure, like Chubbs, He’s ready to say, “Okay, as long as you’re willing to admit that. Now, are you ready to work and do what I tell you?”

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