LAVISHLY LOVING FATHER
Lord, I have no intention of leaving You in search of something else.
Read LUKE 15:11–32
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by God?’ God is looking … longing to bring me home.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, DLT, 1994)
This is perhaps the best known and best loved of all the parables articulated by Jesus. Often called the story of the Prodigal Son, it should be called the story of the Extravagantly Loving Father, for the story directs the reader towards the father’s love for his sons. It centers on the meaning of holiness. Is holiness a need to remain separate from anything that would cause it to be unclean? Or is real holiness, God’s holiness, about embracing that which is lost and bringing it back to life?
The father has two sons, each tragic in his own way. One is lost in loose living and rebellion to the point where he brings shame and humiliation on his father and family. The other is also lost, not in wild living but in self-righteousness. His resentment mirrors the attitude of the Pharisees. We are invited to consider with which of the sons we most identify.
The scandal of the story, however, is the action of the father. The father is undignified in his vulnerable love. He actively waits and watches for the return of his lost son. When he sees him on the horizon, he runs to him, which a dignified father should never do. Even more than that, he kisses him passionately and clothes him finely. Each of the gifts signifies position and acceptance – the long robe of distinction, a signet ring of authority and sandals of sonship (slaves went barefoot). He then throws a massive party and slaughters the fattened calf for the special occasion. “Why all this?” the other son asks. “What was dead is alive again,” comes the reply; “What was lost has been found.” It’s party time!!
Pause for a moment – where might God be wanting to show you His transforming, loving holiness, undignified in all of its extravagance? How could you show this love to others today? Is your self-righteousness causing you to resent rather than rejoice when others receive this love?
Lord, we are told that godliness with contentment is great gain. Teach us to be content with what we have.