Prodigals: The Anti-Prodigal
06/12/2016Ryan Hayden Prodigals
The last three weeks I've been on vacation with my family. While I was away I read some books, and one of the books I read was a book by a man named Tim Keller on the parable of the prodigal son. As I was reading this I realized that there was so much about that parable that I have missed and I also realized that it would really help a lot of people to hear it. So I've decided to preach for three messages on a little series I'm going to call Prodigals.
Real quick, no one looking at their phone, I want to ask you something. It's a surprisingly hard question:
What does the word prodigal mean?
We've all heard of the story of the prodigal son. Everybody has heard the word prodigal.
Up until a few weeks ago I would have told you that prodigal means "rebellious." But that's not what the word means. If you look it up in the dictionary you'll see that the word "Prodigal" means
spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagantt.
So a prodigal isn't a rebel. It's a spendthrift. If I went tomorrow and got a tattoo and a nosering it wouldn't make me a prodigal. I'd be a rebel, but not a prodigal. If I went out tomorrow and spent all of our churches money on a cotton candy machine for VBS, it wouldn't make me a rebel - but I would be a prodigal. So the word "prodigal" isn't a word about submission - it's a word about spending.
I want you to remember that definition, because it's important. As you'll see, there is more than one prodigal in this story. That's why I'm calling this series "prodigals" not "prodigal."
This morning, I want us to focus on the prodigal son.
Verse 11 says:
"And he said, A certain man had two sons"
Here is what happens in this story. You have a familiar scene for the time. You have a wealthy father. In those days it was customary for the father to give a large inheritance to his children. It was a big deal. He would have been a farmer. Most of his wealth would have been tied up in his land and when he died, he would have broken up all of his wealth into the number of sons he had plus one, and he would have given an equal portion to all of his sons but he would have given his firstborn a double portion. But none of this would happen until the father died.
So Jesus says in verse 12
"And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me"
This is where the audience of that time would have said "whoa - he did what?"
I had lunch with my papa last week. He's 86. Do you know what I didn't bring up during the conversation - any kind of inheritance. We talked about the rotary club and his construction projects and my Nana's health but I never mentioned an inheritance and if he brought it up I would quickly change the subject. Why? That would be ridiculously rude and disrespectful.
But Jesus didn't live in 2016. Jesus was living in Israel in AD 30. If it's rude today to ask my Papa about an inheritance - it would have been absolutely unheard of in Jesus day. What this young son did here was the height of rebellion and disrespect. He could have walked up to his father and smacked him in the face and it would have been less disrespectful.
What most father's would have done would be to disown their son for such an act. It just wasn't done. It's obvious the kid had no respect.
But that's not what the father did. The father gathered up all that he had and gave his son what he requested. Think about this for a second - that probably meant selling land. I'm sure everyone in town heard about it. His standing in society would drop. But he gave his son what he asked for.
And what does this kid do? Look at the next verse:
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (13)
He went as far away from his father as he possibly could go and he lived as differently from his father as he possibly could and he spent his father's hard work and dignity on...alcohol, loose women, parties - you name it.
So what do you think of this younger brother? He's kind of a scoundrel. Right? I wouldn't want him working for me. If I was the father I'd be tempted to say "good riddance."
Now - I want to stop here and I want to make a couple of points of application:
Our heavenly Father has taken care of us, He has loved us, He showers us with His blessings all of the time.
When we breath we are breathing His air. When we eat we are eating His food. When we feel the warmth of the sunshine that comes from Him. He has been exceedingly good to all of us.
And yet there is this innate thing in all of us that looks at God and says "that's not good enough. I want more."
I want more than your provision. I want more than your care. I want more than your will.
When you look at the garden of Eden this really comes into picture. Adam and Eve had EVERYTHING. They lived in a perfect society. They had no pain, no sickness, no lack. Perfect companionship. A place of prominence. The whole world was theirs. They even had a close relationship with God. And yet - it wasn't good enough. They wanted more.
Every time we choose to sin - it's like that prodigal son is coming out and saying "get me out of here."
The second point of application this morning is:
This prodigal did more than just show a lack of gratitude for His father. He totally spurned his father's wishes and wanted nothing to do with his father's plans. He wanted it his own way. He couldn't wait to get away from His old man and He didn't care if He broke his heart in the process.
He was a rebel.
So are we. God offers us purpose - we go our own way. God offers us provision - no, we are going to do our own thing. God offers us pleasures - they aren't good enough. We spurn the Father's rules and we run from the Father's presence because at our heart we are rebels.
Jeremiah 17:9 says:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:who can know it"
Isaiah 53:6 says:
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way..."
Church we are in our hearts wickedly ungrateful and wickedly rebellious.
And do you know what we do - we do exactly what the prodigal son does in this story: We exile ourselves.
So, number 3:
The prodigal son goes into a far country. As far away from the father as he can get and the prodigal son tries to make his life happy and fulfilled with all of the things his father wouldn't let him have.
He hangs out with the party crowd. He spends time with loose women. He's the toast of the town, and most importantly - He is outside of the reach of the father.
What a parable for mankind. The vast majority of the people in this world have exiled themselves from God. They aren't grateful for all of God's blessings. They are rebellious against all of God's rules. They are running as far away from God as they possibly can doing their own thing. Trying to make themselves happy with prestige, with pleasures, with power, with possessions.
And they get it. They get this fleeting moment of happiness. They get this fleeting moment of satisfaction. They enjoy the pleasure. Remember, there is pleasure in sin for a season.
Look at verse 14:
"And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want"
This brings me to my fourth point of application:
The pleasure was real - but it didn't last. It didn't satisfy. In fact - it left him poorer. It left him lonlier. It left him hungrier. It left him unsatisfied.
That's the way the world is. It promises satisfaction. It guarantees satisfaction. Every commercial that we watch is promising it to us. Every purchase that we make is saying the same thing "get me and you'll be happy." It promises us satisfaction through romance, through adventure, through leisure, through religion, through sex, through drugs, through alcohol, through partying, through power. It says to us over and over and over again - just get this and you'll be happy. Just do this and you'll be satisfied. Just one more step. Just one more.
And over and over and over again we fall for it. And over and over and over again we are unsatisfied.
Let me tell you friends - that's the way the world is:
Away from God, people are unsatisfied. They are conscious of a hole in their life and they are trying anything they can to fill but all they are getting is a momentary buzz, then they have to go on and try something else.
So, back to our story, this prodigal son has spent everything and now he is in want. He's lonely, he's hungry.
Look at the next verses: (15-17)
"And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat:and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger"
So this prodigal son - when he reaches rock bottom - finally starts to think of home. He finally starts to think of his father.
I don't know but maybe I think at this moment - he has a different view of all of his father's rules. Maybe he has a different view of his father's character.
He is humbled. And maybe, just maybe for the first time he starts to regret the way he treated his father. And he starts longing for home.
The fifth point isn't going to fit in the blank. Sorry about that. Here's the fifth point:
Look, maybe you decided as a young person "I don't need this God thing - I'm going to go my own way, I'm going to do my own thing." and you took God's provision and GOd's life and you went to a far country.
And you aren't satisfied. Let me tell you - you aren't ever going to be. Why not do what this son did in this story, why not "come to yourself." Why not think again about the Father.
This prodigal son came to himself, he looked at the slop he was eating and remembered that his fathers servants fare better than that. So he came home. He humbly went home.
Can I give you a sneak peek - this is so beautiful - the father is waiting for his son. He could have humiliated him. He could have sent him away. He could have made him grovel. He could have laughed him to scorn.
But that's not what happens. Look at the verse 20:
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him"
The father welcomed him and accepted him and made him a part of the family again.
Which brings me to my last point - really the point of this whole thing:
Let me tell you something - the Father loves you. He loves you. He longs to see you return home. He longs to see you be a part of His family.
He wants it so much that he didn't just roast a fatted calf - He sacrificed the Lamb of God. Jesus died on the cross so that you can be reconciled to the father. He paid your penalty.
And the Father wants to love you and make you an accepted part of His family.
So here is my challenge for you this morning:
If you've never trusted Christ as your savior and made a part of the family of God - why not come home this morning? That slop you are feeding on will never satisfy - come home. God will accept you with loving arms. He will run to you if you just come home to Him.
I would love the opportunity to tell you about how Jesus died for your sins and how you can believe on him for Salvation. Come home.
Maybe you are here this morning and you are saved - but you've grown away from the father. To you I say the same thing: come home. The father will welcome you with open arms. You know that there is nothing worth having in the far country - you know it will never satisfy - you know how good the Father is. So come home. Get right with God.
For the rest of us here is what I think we should do with this passage: I think we should remember just how terribly we treated the father, how we took his precious substance and we wasted it. How we disrespected Him. How we said in our hearts "anything but God." And yet, after all of our misdeeds and all of our sin - He welcomed us back and made us a part of His family again and He showers us with his love and grace every day.
We were the prodigal son, praise God we have such a great and gracious Father.
Let's stand for invitation and prayer.