Prodigal Sons

This is a sermon I’ve preached, building on the text of Luke 15:11-32.

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“THE PRODIGAL SONS”


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Our Scripture passage this morning is one of those Bible stories that even non-Christians have probably heard of. The Prodigal Son. Turn with me if you will to Luke chapter 15. We hear Jesus telling parables, nice everyday stories that the everyday person can relate to, yet revealing Godly lessons. This time, like so often is the case, Jesus has a crowd gathered around him; there are his disciples, there are a group of Pharisees trying to catch him in a twist of the tongue, and then there are hundreds of confused, spiritually hungry normal, everyday people– all listening intently to Jesus.


He tells a story of a lost sheep, one of 99, that gets lost in the wilderness, and how the shepherd leaves the rest in their safe pen and goes and finds the lost one, and brings it home, and then Jesus tells of the rejoicing that follows.


He then tells of a lost coin that is desparately searched for and found, and the rejoicing that follows.


And He tells of the prodigal son. Let’s look at Luke 15, starting at verse eleven (New Living Translation).



11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.


13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.


17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’


20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]’


22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.


25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’


28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’


31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

This parable of the prodigal son shows the nature of repentance and the Lord’s readiness to welcome and bless all who return to him.


In so many ways, this is the perfect story of God accepting us back as sinners. But I want to challenge that idea just a little bit. While the acceptance and love of sinners is certainly a part of the meaning, I believe there’s a message there for us as Christians. For those of us that the Bible calls “the adopted sons of God.” You see, the way I read this story there were two sons. This is not a story of one good son and someone from the muck and mire of the streets that joins the family. At the very beginning, they were both sons. And I believe the problems and choices involved in this prodigal face us today.


This prodigal, as a son, while enjoying the benefits of being in the family, becomes restless. He finds the rules and rigors of being in the family too constraining, and wants his freedom. He wants the “fun” that he has never experienced. He longs to move from being just a son to being master on his own. Like the angel Lucifer before the creation of the world, he longs to stop serving and become his own master. A restlessness of this nature is the first step in becoming a prodigal.


In verse 12 we see the younger one say to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ He demands his gifts from the father, his inheritance, as if it were owed to him, even though estates and inheritances are not ours until later. They are not ours to demand on the spot when the will happens to hit us. How many times do we see Christians approach the Heavenly Father in the same way. God becomes like a giant vending machine. All you have to do is claim the thing and believe it will be given to you and, lo and behold, you unloose heaven’s gates and presto, you will receive. I submit to you, this kind of attitude is an attitude of a developing prodigal. There is danger of falling away.


Then of course, we read in verse 13, “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” The Scriptures let us know that time passed where he was in possession of all that was “his” yet still living as a member of the family. But, having all that we want, coupled with the attitudes of “I want to be my own master” and the attitude of “God owes me” makes it nearly impossible to stay in the family long. And the rest is downhill.


How many times do we see Christians, and even ministers, be blessed of God and exalted to high places, only to read about them on the front page later, exposing their wild living? How many times do our career minded Christians go from a heart desiring God, to being blessed and exalted in their career, and then those Christians are absent from the church for decades, and unfortunately, separated from God as well?


However, the other son, the older one, has a prodigal attitude as well, and ends the story as a prodigal, although he didn’t think so I’m sure. Look at his part of this parable again.


Luke 15:25-28a (NLT)
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.




Listen to him arguing with his father as to why he will not go into his family.


In verse 29.we read, “Look! All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused a single thing you told me to.” First, he boasts of his own virtue and obediance. His brother had started with a heart attitude of wanting to be his own master, this son starts with a heart attitude of “I’ve already done all that I need to do, I’m already good!”


The older son then begins complaining. Look at verse 29 again:
“but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.”

He reveals how far his heart is from the family already in his complaint. He laments that he never got a goat for a party with his friends. A goat would be a very small token of the father’s love, yet it is what this son longs more than a fatted calf, because he doesn’t want to party with his family, he wants to party with his friends.

And then, in verse 30 we read:

“… when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!”

He looks down his self-righteous little nose and tries to set the younger son in as negative a light as possible. He had no way of knowing what the younger son had done with all his money. He hadn’t even known that he was home, let alone to hear his stories about what had happened. But he was willing to spread the filth anyways, in order to appear more righteous. And he doesn’t even acknowledge the younger one as his brother. He refers to him as “this son of yours.”


How many times do we Christians look down on the prodigals in our midst? We see that God the Father has welcomed them home and renewed their position in the family, yet we refuse to call them “brother”…first, only in our hearts, but then, out loud, and even to the Father’s face. And we go out of our way to make sure that others see them in the worst possible light. What arrogance!


Well, the father’s dealing with each son is similar. He goes out and meets them before they reach the house. He shows his acceptance and willingness to include each, but only one son will bow his heart enough to allow the father to do so. And when the story ends, the younger son, who had sinned deplorably, is included inside the house, in the party, amongst the family. And the older son, the “righteous” one, yet the one who had never dealt with the brother or the family in truth, is on the outside, turning his back on all that he had known. And not even the father cannot even convince him to rejoin the family.


As Christians, as “sons”, we need to see the message of this parable. For we need to remember that even as members of the father’s family, we are all still sinners. There were two boys. Of the two, the wayward prodigal is by far the most likable, the most attractive, the most honest and open. Both were equally lost–the prodigal amongst the pigs and the other in his pew. The father loved them both. Yet they each chose their own way of responding. But where were they at the end of the story?We overlook it quite often, but there is as much prodigal son in him as his little brother.

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