11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 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. 21 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.’ 22 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. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my s
on was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
This story, the parable that Jesus told is clearly one of the most powerful, and most popular in all of the Bible. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, but of course it is really the story of not just one son but two sons, two brothers. This story teaches us so much about the nature of God, about the nature of sin, about what it means to be saved. But it also teaches us a lot about Oursleves. We have been in a series over the past few weeks that we have called Kingdoms, and we have been talking about the different Kingdoms that exist and that are at war with the Kingdom of God. So for example two weeks ago we talked about the Kingdom of Man and a Humanistic Worldview that is so very different from the Kingdom of Jesus, last week we looked at several different worldview realities again that are so different, and so opposed to the Kingdom of God.
Not only are there worldviews or Kingdoms around you that are opposed to a biblical worldview or to the Kingdom of God.
There is actually a Kingdom within you. It is the you Kingdom, it is the self Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that says me first, that kingdom of self actualization that says I will find my way, I will make myself happy, I will be my own master. It is the Kingdom of Self. And in this story, in this Old Prodical son parable we learn a lot about this Kingdom.
So, very simply in looking at this I want to look with you today at the three characters, and there are namely three. You have the younger son, the older son, and the Father.
So the younger son, and the story begins with the younger son asking a question that would have been unheard of at this time, and not really asking a question. He goes to his Father with a demand.
‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’
In other words give me my inheritance now. I don’t want to wait until you are gone, I don’t want to wait until you are dead, in other words the son is saying to the Father you are worth more dead than alive.
I don’t really want you, I just want your stuff. It is an amazing request, it is an amazing statement. Even to us in 21st century America where children are disrespectful to their parents all the time, it is an amazing statement, it is an especially amazing request in 1st century Israel, in this patriarchal fear centered, law centered society.
But what is even more amazing is what the Father does, he does it. He gives his boy his inheritance. I want you to think about this. Now for you to do this. Let’s say you are 55 and your college graduate son brings this request to you, well a lot of your wealth is tied up in your house, in other investment property you have, in your 401k. So in order to this you are having to sell property, empty out a retirement accounts. To give your child his inheritance before you die is an incredible cost to you.
But it was more cost to this father, because you see in this day and age everything this family had, would have been tied up in their land, the inheritance was the land, so this Father would have literally had to sell part of his land. His livelihood, how he was making his money, in order to give this boy his inheritance. The land, we really don’t understand land. Maybe some of you have some family land that has been in your family for a long time and so you kind of get this. For those of you who watch Downton Abby, Lady Mary is always saying my destiny is to protect the estate, to keep the land and the house together for our family to enjoy for generations to come, that is a picture of what this land would have meant to this Father, it wasn’t just land it was part of him, in fact the Greek word there in verse 12, for property, He divided his property is the word Bios, where we get the word biology, it is saying that he divided his life to give this boy his inheritance.
So, with riches in his hand this younger brother is off to a foreign land where he can totally express himself. See this is one of the messages of the Kingdom of Self. Be yourself, Express yourself, enjoy yourself, don’t worry about your family, don’t worry about your responsibilities, do what makes you happy, do what makes you feel good,
In the words of the Isley Brothers – its your thing, do what you want to do. As I said a few weeks ago, in the words of Lil Wayne – Find your thing and do you. Indulge yourself.
The truth about the Kingdom of Self is that it is rarely so obvious; we all know that the guy that goes out with wild living, well we all know that guy is in sin… We all know the guy that squanders his family’s money on prostitutes and wild living. We know that guy is not a model citizen
But, usually the Kingdom of Self has a more subtle message, it says look, make yourself comfortable, make sure you meet all of your needs and then if you have a little extra, you can do a little bit here or there for God. This Kingdom is so destructive to the Kingdom of God.
It is why people live their whole lives and do so little for the Lord. It is why people who are raised in Christian homes, who are incredibly talented, who are well educated, who have access to God’s word, and to Biblical training, and to Christian community, it is why people like that so often live lives that mean so little for Jesus. They have been overtaken by the Kingdom of Self. They have fallen into the message of self, which is take care of yourself first, and then if you have time, you can go to church, you can give a little, you can do a little. But Jesus himself said, “Seek First the Kingdom of God, Seek First his way, His Righteousness, and he will take care of all of your needs.”
Don’t you see church the Great Commission is hard, serving Christ is real, it does require sacrifice, it does mean that you have to bury the Kingdom of self, it does mean that you have to commit treason against the Kingdom of man. But what are you going to say someday when you stand before the Lord, what kind of account will you give of your life. Did you spend your life well, did you live your life for Christ or were you overcome by yourself? Did you become like the younger son, a slave to your appetites, to your own comforts, and to your own desires?
The reason that many of you won’t commit to go on a short term mission trip next week is the Kingdom of Self. People saying, look I don’t have any extra time, I don’t have any extra money. Don’t you realize that you have been given an inheritance? Don’t you realize what the Father has given you, if you are in Christ the Father was willing to give his own son for you and the Son was willing to give his own life for you. And all of your time is God’s time it is a gift from God to you, all of your money is God’s money it is a gift from God to you, don’t you see that you have an inheritance, the Father has given you an inheritance, what are you doing with it.
And so we read that after all of his money had been spent The younger son found himself in poverty, totally broke, totally desperate and it is from there that we read one of these great little phrases in verse 18
When he came to himself, When he came to himself – When his eyes were opened, when he realized that he had been a slave to something that could never fulfill, and never satisfy, and never last, he came to himself.
Now there are some of you who are younger sons here today. Maybe your just getting back into to church but maybe you’re pretty regular in church.
But what is the measure of your heart, where is your heart? What are you seeking?
You know there is an old saying that says you can learn a lot about a man by looking at his calendar and his checkbook. And that is outdated of course now it would be you can learn a lot about a man by looking at his Ical and Google Wallet. Where are you spending your time and where are you spending your money that will tell you a lot about which Kingdom you are in.
If I were to look at your calendar, maybe in a week, maybe in a year does it reflect a heart that is passionate about the Gospel, about Christ and his Kingdom, are you spending your time serving? Are you spending your time in community? What about evangelism? What about time simply reading your Bible? What about prayer?
And what if I were to look at your check book?
You know we had a lot of people that took the challenge in the Make Initiative to say, I want my check to the Lord to be the biggest check I write every month. I realize maybe not everyone is there but is it at least number 2? Or number 3?
You have been given an inheritance, do not squander this.
So of course many of you know the story when the younger son came to himself and he decides to return home, and he knows what he has done and that he can’t just go home, and he is so nervous that his Father will even look at him, much less accept him, and so on his way home he puts this speech together.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ and so maybe this will work, maybe the Father will accept him.
But what we learn from the text is that when the boy was still a long way off, the Father saw him, meaning the Father had been looking for him, hoping, longing that he would return. He ran, ancient Patriarchs did not run, women ran, children ran, but not the men, you had to pick up your robe, you had to expose your legs, men didn’t run but this Father was so overcome with compassion, that he ran to this boy embraced him.
And rather than punishing him, and rather than saying you are going to earn every penny of this back, rather than saying you are grounded for the rest of your life you can never go to a party again, the Father threw the boy a party. He killed the fatted calf, which was such a rare thing to do, this would have been reserved for only the most special of occasion.
And he says, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.’ So, the picture that we get of this boy is that he is filthy he has been living with the pigs, he is probably naked, he is barefoot, and he is starving. The Father clothes him in the best robe, puts shoes on his feet, and gives him a party that he will never forget.
So, that is the younger brother, what about the Older brother
The first interaction we had with the younger brother is he is asking his dad for money so he can go party, the first interaction we have though with the older brother is he is dutifully working in the field, doing his job, doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing and he comes toward the house and there is music and there is dancing.
What is this, says the older brother, and so he calls a servant, and the servant tells him, “your brother is back, and your Father has killed the calf. The older brother was furious. As I was thinking about this story this week you know I couldn’t help but guess at the dynamics of the relationship between the two brothers, I’m sure the older brother was really happy when the younger brother left, and when the news of the younger brother wasting all of the family’s money, and living in sin came back to the family, I’m sure the older brother was happy to hear it. After all he was dutifully working in the field, he was doing what he was supposed to do, and now not only was he the oldest son, he would surely be favored son.
So, we see the second and very different manifestation of the Kingdom of Self in the older boy. In the younger son we see self expression, we see self indulgence, self comfort, but here with the Older Brother we see Wage Garnering. You see the older brother is conforming to the moral code, he is doing what is right so that he can get a return, so that he can say to his Father ah, you owe me, and you owe me big time.
And that’s exactly what he does.
We read in the story That the Father, being the father that he is, when he hears that the older brother is out in the field, while he is throwing the greatest party that the town has ever seen, he goes to him, he leaves the party. The same Fathat that ran to the self indulgent son, who runs to the self expressive son, is now also running out to the self righteous son, and the text says that he entreats his son, but what does the older son say to the Father, pay up old man.
He says in verse 29.
‘Look, And he doesn’t address his Father with Father or sir, He just says, Look as if to say, Look Old man, Look you 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. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
How dare you Father, You owe me. But even after this self-righteous disrespect the Father continues to entreat him, continues to pursue him. Continues to call him to the celebration explaining to him, your brother was dead, but now he is alive come and celebrate.
There are some younger sons in this room, and your comfort, and your expression or maybe a specific sin in your life is everything to you, and Jesus may be number 5 and you are wasting your precious inheritance that the Father gave you on yourself, and on your appetites.
But there are also a lot of older brothers in here and you’ve been in church your whole life, and you have never missed Sunday School. You would never say this, but deep down in your heart you believe that God owes you. You have served your time, you done your thing, you have never missed a tithe check in your life, and you know a lot of us can lean toward older brotherness.
We want to take our bag of tricks before the Father and say, “Look you – I’ve already served, I’ve already gone, I’ve already repented, I have done what I am supposed to do and so much more. Look at all that I have done, if anything God owes, this church owes me the fatted calf, I’m mature, I have arrived.
Let me tell you what real Christian maturity looks like. Real Christians do more and more and more for the Father, and then from the Kingdom of Self, they get less and less and less in return. Don’t you see. That is beauty, that is love,that is devotion. That’s Christianity, that is the way of Christ, who though he was God made himself a servant being obedient even to the point of death. I think of a guy like Ken Pruitt. You know what that guy does, he just serves, Ken is in his 80s. He doesn’t complain, he encourages, a few month’s ago he was gravely ill, but got back up, got better, put a smile on his face, and kept serving his King.I think of someone life Molly Darby, who was a founding member, she has served Valleydale literally her entire life. You know where she probably is right now, Kidstuff, serving our children. Doing more and more and more for less and less and less.
That is the way of Jesus and that is something that the self righteous older brother, who is wage garnering against the Father, looking to get what he is owed from the Father, that is something that older brothers’ hate You know the audience for this parable was a bunch of tax collectors and sinners on one side, and the Pharisees, the religious people on the other. And it’s easy to see which brother in the story represents which group that Jesus is addressing. A commentator named Kenneth Bailey points out that this parable is set up to be 8 stanzas and 8 stanzas
As many parables are there is an even number of stanzas coming in and going out. But the parable of the prodigal son has eight stanzas going in dealing with the wayward son, but only seven stanzas coming out dealing with the older brother.
Its not even, and It kind of ends weird, the Father makes an appeal to the Older brother in verse 31 and 32 saying
‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ” And then it ends and we don’t know how he responded, it is the end of the chapter.
And so I would like to offer an ending, a verse 33
Upon hearing this the boy embraced his father and asked forgiveness and the two walked back to the celebration praising God for the return of the wayward son.
Great Ending – because the self indulgent son is saved, this self righteous son is saved I would love that ending.
But sadly that is not the way this story ends
You see Jesus was addressing Pharisees here Pharisees that were so mad just like the older brother that Jesus would eat with sinners.
The real ending if it were included would read. Upon hearing this the older son took a piece of wood and with it he beat and killed his father
You see It would only be a few months after Jesus told this parable that the same Pharisees he was telling it to would conspire against him and take a piece of wood and have him put to death on because he wasn’t the messiah they wanted. He never paid up, He wasn’t making them Kings, he wasn’t giving them what they thought they deserved, he owed them.
But the last person in the story that we need to look at is the Father.
And the Father here is a representative of God the Father, whose perfect love is such that he was willing to save and run after both the self indulgent and the self righteous, the self expressive younger son, and the wage garnering older son, but this is also the Father who was willing to pay the price, the younger son spoiling his inheritance cost the Father, the older son embarrassing his Father in front of the whole village cost the Father, this Father was willing to pay a price like out Heavenly Father who loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for sinners
And I don’t know where you are today, I don’t know where you have been. But everyone in here outside of Christ is one of these two sons.
Some of you are younger sons, and you aren’t in a distant land going to crazy parties and hanging out with prostitutes but you are wasting the inheritance that God has given you.
Some of you are older sons, you are the good people, you are the ones that always did what was right and because you did now God owes you. You see the key here is motivation, why are you serving the Father? Is it because you love the Father, or is it because you want an upper hand on the Father, Is it because you love the Father or is it because you love yourself.
But older brothers and younger brothers alike. The Father runs to you. The Father is inviting both of you to the party that fatted calf is for both of you to enjoy, the Father loves to save the self indulgent and the self righteous.
But the problem is so very few of us ever come to our senses, so very few of us wake up and come to ourselves. Most of the time younger brothers don’t go broke and they have enough of whatever they need to keep filling their life with comfort and experience, and distraction and whatever else and they don’t have to think about God. They never come to their senses.
And older brothers its even harder for you to come to your senses, it is really hard for the righteous, the one who always does what is right, to see how deeply he needs a savior.
But the Father, the Faithful Father pursues. And loves, no matter what.
Do you really love him? Do you really want him? Not just to get stuff from him but do you really love the Father.
Here is how you know. This is how you know that you are a child of the Father, and that you really want him and not just his stuff, here is how you know, that you are really his. It is this, Do you have the Father’s heart?
Are you like the Father? Do you run after the younger sons, do you run to those who are filling their lives with everything but Jesus. When you see the sinner, when you see the prostitute, when you see the man or the woman so caught in sin do you get judgmental, I am glad I’m not like them, or do you get compassionate. When you see the older brother, the self righteous, do you just write them off as judgmental religious people or do you like the Father run to them and pray for them. Do you run to the lost.
This is really what WorldReach is, It is a time for our church to say, yes we have the heart of the Father, we have the heart of the Son, Jesus who came to seek and to save the Lost. We realize that all of us were ruined sinners saved by the amazing grace of God, and God has given us a new heart where we like the Father run to every sinner no matter if he is a secularist in Burlington Vermont or a Muslim in the Middle East and we say, “There is a party, the Father has killed the Calf, and you don’t want to miss this party” Trust in Jesus and be saved.
This Father was willing to pay even the greatest price to have these boys in his arms, he forgave the younger son a debt that he could never pay, but our Heavenly Father was willing to pay an even greater price, the price of your sin by sending Jesus to suffer and die for you and me.
This Father was willing to take his best robe and clothe his naked, desperate, and filthy son, but our Heavenly was willing to clothe your naked, and desperate, and filthy soul in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
This Father was inviting these boys to the greatest party the village had ever seen to show them how much he loved them, but your heavenly Father is inviting you to an even better party so that he can show you the immeasurable riches of his love for all of eternity. Don’t you want a Father like that? He wants to be your Father, and so trust in him, believe on his son the Lord Jesus and be saved.
If you have never trusted in Jesus wont you trust in Him today and be saved, be clothed, and be loved. And if you are in Christ, if you are a Christian. Won’t you have the Father’s heart and run, do whatever it takes to run to those who don’t know your savior. Invite them to this party where they will experience a joy and love that really fulfills, that really lasts, and that really satisfies.