Dr. Dan Coflin
Pastor, River of Life Church
Have you ever heard the story of the prodigal son? You can read it in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus was compelled to tell this story in response to the disdain of the Pharisees and scribes for their criticism of him because he “received” sinners. In other words, Jesus was following his mission to seek the wounded, rejected, and broken people whose lives had been devastated by sin and restore them to a right relationship with God.
In this story, God is represented by the father who had two sons. The youngest son came to him and demanded his inheritance to be given to him immediately. The father then gave both his sons their inheritances. Shortly after, the youngest son left home with his newly acquired wealth and went into a foreign land where he soon partied away all that he had. When his money ran out, so did his pseudo friends, and the young man was alone with no means of support. When a severe famine came upon that land, the young man became hungry and desperate, but no one would help him.
Longing for the provision his father’s hired servants enjoyed, he decided to return to his father and humbly ask him just to hire him as one of his laborers. With his prepared speech in-hand, he returned to his father, but before he could approach the house, his father saw him coming down the road and ran to meet him. Clutching his son in his arms and kissing his neck, the father embraced his son, rejoicing to see him.
The young man attempted to give his rehearsed speech of unworthiness but was interrupted by his father’s command to his servants to bring the best robe to clothe his son and to put a gold ring of authority upon his finger. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found…” (Luke 15:24). This joyful reunion was accompanied with a bar-b-que and dance in celebration of his son’s safe return home.
Later that afternoon, the eldest son came home after working in the fields all day. Hearing the music, he inquired of one of the servants who told him his brother had returned home and his father was celebrating. Angry and indignant he refused to join the party. When his father heard about it, he went out to encourage his son to come inside, but he refused.
What was the reason for the eldest son’s anger? He complained to his father that he had always kept his commandments, but his brother had spent all his money on harlots and wild living. He had worked in the fields to serve his father, but his brother had left his family and was irresponsible. He continued his complaint saying that his father had never given him anything and his favor toward his brother was unfair.
We can read this story and quickly see that this eldest son was blinded to the truth and his offence made his perceptions all wrong. His father had given the inheritance to both of his sons, and everything the father had belonged to him. The eldest son had constant fellowship with his father and enjoyed the food and comfort of the family’s wealth while the younger son’s life had been ruined by his sin.
His attitude of superiority, his victim mentality, and his loveless unconcern for his brother were the same attitudes the Pharisees and scribes took against Jesus when he welcomed sinners and showed them the love of God. It seems the self-righteous religious always get in the way of God’s work to restore and not condemn.
Sin must never be condoned, but the sinner must always know the door to the Father’s house is always open. The eldest son already had all the things he saw his father give to his younger brother. The robe, the ring, and the joy of his relationship with his father were his all along, but he could not enjoy the blessings of those things with hatred in his heart. Like his father, his greatest joy should have been seeing the restoration of his younger sibling.
Jesus told this story with the purpose of showing the religious leaders the hatred they carried in their hearts for the very people God loved and longed to see restored and to show the prodigals God’s heart to receive them, forgive them, and restore them. God’s love never changes. He is still the same today as he was back then watching for the return of all who would come to Him.