Prodigal.

Posted: March 15, 2016 in TLCC
Tags: , , , ,

We’re now in Luke 15. Growing up in Sunday School, we talk more about the younger son (hence, the story, The Prodigal Son) more than any other character in the parable. Reading through the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, the focus isn’t really on the lost. The focus is on the one who seeks out the lost. Check it out for yourself.

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The story opens with…

There was a man who had two sons.

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Basic English. There’s a subject and there’s a verb (or action word). What’s the subject of this sentence? Was it the younger brother? Was it the elder brother? Isn’t the subject of the story “A MAN” and the verb “had”. The subject is the Father. The story is about the Father. The story of the prodigal son is the Father. Many would focus on the younger son, in this world of a Man-centric theology, we forget that the Bible speaks about God. That the focus of every story is God. Everything is for the glory of God.

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.

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What does this say about the Father? He is rich. He has properties that can be divided among his children. He has prepared well that His children are well provided for, that they can survive long after he is gone.

The Father could have reacted differently. He was within his rights to discipline his son. In their culture, the son could have been stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 21). He didn’t. Instead, he divided his property. Culturally, the elder son got 2/3 of the property while the younger son got 1/3. Still, that was a lot.

One attribute I see is that the Father is merciful. He would extend mercy on a son who does not deserve it. He would give room for the son to have what he wanted even if the Father knew that the son could not live without Him.

What does this tell you about the younger son? He really didn’t love his father. He loves the benefits, not the relationship. He doesn’t want the responsibility, just the resources. In short, he was telling his dad…”I want you dead!”

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.

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The son really spent everything and went to the pigs. In their culture, being with the pigs is being unclean. Imagine the shock of the hearers at this point. This is one of the lowest points ever. Losing everything and then to want to eat what the pigs are eating.

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!’

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This shows of a Father who is just. The Father is just in how he treated his servants. The impression that was left on the younger son is seen when he said, “my father’s servants have food to eat“. He feeds his servants, his servants have a roof to sleep in. His servants are well treated.

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.”’ And he arose and came to his father.

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This shows of a Father who forgives. Why would the son be willing to put himself in a position of returning home? If his father is not a forgiving father, he would rather let himself die at this point, but knowing who his father is, that his father is willing to forgive, then it dawned on him that he can come home.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

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His Father saw him. How many days was the father waiting for his son to come home? He probably would light a lamp each night in the event that the son would come home. The Father saw. It was not the son who saw the father first. It was the other way around.

His father felt compassion, he still cares. His heart was still for his son. Even after what was done to him. Compassion is to show concern for the misfortunes of others. The Father was compassionate towards his son, because after all, that is His son!

The Father ran…grown men don’t run. Old men don’t run. He could have waited for his son to reach him but he didn’t. He ran. Why? Why did the Father run?

He ran to protect his son. In their time, the villagers could have stoned the son to death for disrespecting his father. The son could be killed on the spot, so the father ran to protect him. This talks of a protective father, one who would have no regards to the norms of the day. He embraced and kissed his son. He welcomed him back.

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.

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The Father placed robes on his son. He restores dignity. He wanted his son to be respected again. He is concerned about restoring his son.

The Father placed a ring on his finger. The ring signifies that the son can transact business in behalf of the father. It is like giving an extension of your credit card. Why would the Father do that? Isn’t this the son who wasted his inheritance?

The Father placed shoes on his son. Shoes are not worn by slaves. Only the freemen wore shoes. The son, now a slave, is once again a freeman. He didn’t deserve it, but given a shot at a new life, it was the father who initiated the action.

The Father knew how to celebrate. He throws a party for his son who came home. He is allowing people to see his son again, and this is one party we would want to attend.

The story doesn’t end here though.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

The older brother. He was fuming mad. Why throw a party? Why celebrate? In fact, most of us can relate to the older brother than to the younger son. The Father isn’t fair. His anger wasn’t directed at the younger son, it was directed at the Father.

Look, these many years I have served you…He was serving but he wasn’t joyful. He was grudgingly doing the duties. He wasn’t complaining out loud but he views the responsibilities as heavy.

“Another sign of those with an “elder brother” spirit is joyless, fear-based compliance. The older son boasts of his obedience to his father, but lets his underlying motivation and attitude slip out when he says, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you.” To be sure, being faithful to any commitment involves a certain amount of dutifulness. Often we don’t feel like doing what we ought to do, but we do it anyway, for the sake of integrity. But the elder brother shows that his obedience to his father is nothing but duty all the way down. There is no joy or love, no reward in just seeing his father pleased. In the same way, elder brothers are fastidious in their compliance to ethical norms, and in fulfillment of all traditional family, community, and civic responsibilities. But it is a slavish, joyless drudgery. The word “slave” has strong overtones of being forced or pushed rather than drawn or attracted. A slave works out of fear—fear of consequences imposed by force. This gets to the root of what drives an elder brother. Ultimately, elder brothers live good lives out of fear, not out of joy and love.” (The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith)

I never disobeyed your command…Tim Keller was right in his observation. The younger son’s flight from the father was crashingly obvious. He left the father literally, physically, and morally. Though the older son stayed at home, he was actually more distant and alienated from the father than his brother, because he was blind to his true condition. He would have been horribly offended by the suggestion that he was rebelling against the father’s authority and love, but he was, deeply.

You never gave me a young goat…wait a minute. Remember the Father divided the inheritance? Who got the two thirds of the property? Wasn’t it the elder brother? He owns that goat anyway. Has he forgotten the Father gave him a bigger portion of the property?

that I may celebrate with my friends…The heart of the older brother is clearly seen here. He would rather spend time with his friends than the Father. He really doesn’t love the Father.

Neither son loved the father for himself. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently.

The Father replied…Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found. 

The joy we have is being with the Father, not being in the party. We then can surmise that the Father is God, and we are the sons. We think we are the prodigal son but more often than not, we are the elder brother.

The lesson we can learn here is that we see who the Father is. As you write the characteristics of the Father, may we come to imitate Him. We see the Father as merciful, compassionate, loving, and welcoming. May we be like the Father. Oh by the way, looking back, we can then ask the question. Who is the Prodigal in the story?

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Can you do me a favor? If these ideas resonate with you, would you:

• REACT. Do something.
• RESPOND. Leave a comment on this post.
• REPOST. Repost this link on Twitter, Facebook or your blog.

 

 

 

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