11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.
12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
- Perhaps the younger son, a restless, impatient youth, looked at his father and said, “He may be an old man, but he looks healthy to me! He is up at dawn, looking as fresh as a morning daisy, and puts in a long day without a groan or a complaint. He eats sensibly and, for all I know, he may live for years and years and years! Instead of waiting for him to die, I will demand my share of the inheritance now! Why wait? I want my inheritance while I am young enough to enjoy it!”
- Speaking personally, my estate falls into the modest category; even so, if my daughter wanted her inheritance now, I fear my response would be rather harsh. Of course, my daughter would never make such a selfish request, but this young man delivered his demands and his father agreed to the terms. Perhaps the father was overly indulgent. He could have refused his son’s outlandish request, but, for reasons we do not know, the father gave in to his son.
- We have all traveled to the far country. The far country is anywhere that is outside of God’s will. For many who wander the streets, the far country is found in a pipe or a needle or a bottle or a pill. For others, the far country is sexual intimacy outside of marriage. The far country may be out of control spending, soaring credit card debt, and living beyond the reasonable boundaries of a sensible budget. There are men whose far country is a seedy, dehumanizing pornographic website. This much is certain--the far country is any place that we ought not to be!
- I spent eight years working with women battling addiction. Cocaine, heroin, and alcohol had cost these women their health, their marriages, their children, their families, their friends, their property, their ambitions, and their dreams. I could not tell you the number of women I have known who left the recovery program, returned to the far country, and died with a needle in their arm.
- After wasting his inheritance, the restless youth found himself in a place stricken with famine. Life in the far country leaves its inhabitants empty and in want. There is no real satisfaction in the far country. The pleasures are only temporary, but the pangs of hunger that ultimately follow seem to last and last.
- As Jesus told this story, His listeners must have winced, for no good Jewish boy would have been caught dead in a pigsty. People living in the far country are not careful about the company they keep.
- Let us be reminded that most of the pigs living in the far country walk on two legs. They indulge the whims of their flesh, revel in that which is unholy, have little regard for the truth, denounce good while praising evil, and live as though God did not exist.
- While the young man’s pockets jingled with his father’s gold, there were parties every night, but when his wealth sprouted wings and flew away, the young man’s friends stopped coming around. Meaningful, healthy, lasting relationships are seldom forged in the far country.
- Life in the far country leaves its inhabitants feeling empty and unsatisfied. We must understand that the far country is a place of superficiality--to find real substance and purpose, we must set up housekeeping in the midst of God’s will. Let us be reminded of Jesus’ account of the foolish man who built his house on shifting sands while the wiser man constructed his home on a rock-solid foundation. Jesus is the cornerstone--our firm foundation--steadier, mightier, unmovable, and even more unshakable than the Rock of Gibraltar.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
- The celebrated Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, said God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts to us in our pain. God employs pain to garner our attention; pain is a highly effective tool for making us acutely aware of the grim reality we might otherwise ignore.
- The young man remembered that his father’s cupboards were well-stocked and no one, not even the hired help, knew hunger. Our Heavenly Father invites us to His lavish banquet table. He would have us satisfied. Satan has a banquet table, too, but he would serve us as the main course were it not for God’s protection.
- Only a pig can be satisfied living in a pigsty. A son or daughter may wallow in the mire for a time, but, in the end, those who belong to the Father will come home. No son or daughter will ever be content in the company of swine.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’
- Repentance is, quite simply, a change of direction and confession is to be in agreement with God. Yes, the son had sinned grievously against his father. The son knew this to be a statement of fact and the father knew this to be true, too. Thankfully, the son turned his back on the far country and fled to the safety of home. This is what confession and repentance looks like.
- When we come to Jesus, we confess that we are lost sinners and we turn from the shadows of our sinful past to the glorious light of our Savior.
- None of us is worthy of God’s love, but this truth makes the message of grace all the sweeter. God gives us what we need. God gives us what we do not deserve. He gives us what we cannot possibly earn on our own. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift. Do not fall into the trap of believing that eternal life is a paycheck for a life well lived--eternal life is a gift. You and I are not boast of our works and deeds and accomplishments. May we boast only of Jesus.
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
- In ancient Jewish culture, older men simply did not run. This would have been considered an undignified display of affection unworthy of a well-to-do patriarch.
- For those who long to leave the far country, be assured that God is not angry with you. It is okay to come home. In fact, He will run to meet you.
- The philosopher Kant believed God would only accept those few women and men whose motives were absolutely pure. What nonsense! God stoops down to woo us. He is not proud. He will adopt us into His family even if, for no other reason, we hope to escape the ravages of hell. Because Jesus is “gentle and humble of heart,” He will turn away no one who, in simple, childlike faith, calls out to Him in distress.
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
- Those who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ are clothed in His righteousness. Our works and deeds are likened to filthy rags, but believers have the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
- The cults and false religions teach we must earn God’s favor through our works and deeds of righteousness. This is a lie that smells like smoke and brimstone. As our works have been described as filthy rags, who in their right mind would show up in God’s throne room donned in nasty scraps of tattered cloth? Talk about being woefully underdressed for a posh affair! Only those properly garbed will enter into God’s banquet hall.
24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
- In my life, I have met my share of joyless, sombre-faced Christians. How can any of us remain dry and emotionless in light of God’s lavish promises? In the end, our side wins. We get to live eternally with Him. And, in the meantime, we are given opportunities to serve. Our life has meaning. We live with a divine purpose. As far as I am concerned, the church has far exceeded its quota of joyless believers.
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 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
- Music? Feasting? And dancing? Sounds like a party to me! I am amazed by those stony-faced Christians who would drain the lifeblood from the Gospel and turn a relationship with the Living Savior into mere religion. A sour disposition and a face that would crack under the strain of a smile are unbefitting of those who have been assured that they will spend eternity with our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. If I may, once again, quote from C.S. Lewis, we were made for joy. God is the author of joy and the creator of pleasure. I fear many of us allow tradition or pride to steal the joy that God has in ready store. Let’s have music and feasting and, if you are so inclined, dancing! It is perfectly proper for a Christian to express joy.
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
- The German people have a word for those who take pleasure in seeing others suffer. That word is schadenfreude. He was not the first older brother to despise his younger brother. You will recall that Cain took his younger brother’s life. Esua, son of Isaac and Rebecca, threatened to slay his younger brother Jacob over the matter of a misappropriated birthright. In this parable, the older brother, this schadenfreude, was a foul concoxion of Cain and Esau all in one angry, brooding bottle of poison.
- The older brother had faithfully served his father, but he did so begrudgingly. How many of us perform our Christian duties without love for our Heavenly Father? How many of us attend to our prayers and Bible studies and church attendance only from a misguided sense of duty? The psalmist said we are to serve the Lord with gladness. Where was the joy in the executing of the older brother’s duties?
- The older brother’s far country was located in the midst of his anger and resentment. He, too, was a prodigal and maybe an even worse prodigal than the younger brother.
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”
- Do you belong to Jesus? Have you placed your hope in Him as Savior? Has He began a good work in you--a work that He will surely complete according to His unbreakable promise (Philippians 1:6)? If so, all that is His is yours. The son of the King is a prince. The daughter of the King is a princess. Why, then, son or daughter, do you grovel about as a dirty-faced beggar? We are the King’s children--tremendously rich in the lavish promises of God.
- In the end, everyone was happy except the older brother and the fatted calf. My suggestion to joyless, sour-faced Christians is this: Please consider becoming a buddhist. You are doing no favor to the cause of Jesus Christ.
- This is speculation on my part, but I rather suspect the younger son may have, from time to time, reminisced about his adventures in the far country. While plowing a field, the weary young man, rubbing the blisters on the palms of his hands, may have wistfully remembered the pretty girls and the flow of wine and the roaring good times that had been his in the far country. May those who romanticize their unsavory pasts remember that, once the girls and the wine are gone, all that remains are pigs and swill buckets.
- A Bible teacher I greatly respect suggested that, over the years, there may have been several welcome home parties before the young man was finally settled. Undoubtedly, many among us have journeyed into the far country more than once. This is troubling news for anxious parents and, of course, fatted calves do not like this, either, but, in the end, prodigals come home to stay.