I Wish You, Dead!
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 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. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 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! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.
Background: Christ is on His way to Jerusalem during the last few months of His life. He now has been ministering nearly three years and is intending to offer Himself as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin. But, before He does, He takes some time teaching a few parables to the scribes and Pharisees, His relentless enemies. The resentment of the Pharisees and the scribes is due to the fact that Jesus directly confronted them on their hypocrisy. He identified them as self-righteous and not truly righteous. Jesus told them that they were excluded from the Kingdom because they were inwardly corrupt and headed for God’s divine judgement.
The first two stories in chapter 15 are about the lost sheep and the lost coin, which emphasize God as the seeker, the one who finds and the one who rejoices. The third story looks at the human side of sin, repentance, recovery and rejection. This is a dramatic and moving story. All of it is deeply interesting and impacts one’s thinking on the truth of God’s amazing grace.
The story or parable begins with the younger son asking his father for his inheritance. He wanted his right to the estate and he demanded it, now! The word, "prodigal" means, "spend thrift," someone who is wasteful and self-indulgent. The youngest son is the classic illustration of wasting your life, of extravagant self-indulgence, that is why he is called, “The prodigal son.”
In the Eastern culture, the inheritance was only given when the father died. Since the father was still living, this was, in essence, saying to the father, “I wish you were dead.” The command to “Honor thy father and mother,” was not obeyed by this son. This was a serious breach of honor and an outrageous request from the young man directed to his healthy father. The young son was saying, “I don't want a relationship with you, I don't want responsibility, or accountability. I don't want to care for anyone. I just want my stuff and go my own way.”
Here’s a surprise in the story, the father divided his wealth. The oldest son would receive a double portion of the estate–––giving the youngest son one-third of the total inheritance. The father is giving to this son his requested inheritance with personal agony and the pain of rejected love. In Israel, a father would be forbidden to do such a thing, but this father was not doing this because he thought this was best. He was giving his son, the sinner, his freedom. The son is demonstrating the absence of a connection with his father and that is the whole point of the story.
This young son represents open sinners, the rebels, the dissolute, the immoral, those who make no pretense of faith in God, or love for God. These are the tax gatherers and the sinners, the outcasts, the irreligious. They run as far as they can from God because they have no love for Him and no relationship with Him. They're not interested in exposing themselves to any responsibility or accountability.
The sinner has no relationship to God whatsoever. He doesn't love God, care about God, or want anything to do with God. The sinner desires no accountability to God, doesn't want to answer to God, and doesn't want to submit to God. He doesn't want any kind of kinship at all and in fact, he has none. God, in the agony of rejected love, lets the sinner go. Romans 1:24 says, He gave them up, and let them go in the lusts of their own hearts.
Thoughts: What is the lesson here? We must know, sin is rebellion against God the Father. Sin is shunning all responsibility, all accountability and denying God of His rightful place. It is to hate God and wish Him dead. It is to take all the gifts that He's surrounded us with in life and then squander them as if they were nothing. It is to waste our lives in selfish indulgence and unrestrained lust. The foolish sinner exhausts every plan known to man and says, “I'll fix my own life, I'll go to psychology, I'll take drugs, I'll drink alcohol, I'll go to some self-help group, I'll move to a new neighborhood, I'll marry a new person.” When all that stuff is exhausted, the sinner wakes up at the bottom. This is where the prodigal son is living, in the pit of rebellion and shame.
Fortunately, this is not the end of the story and next week, we will see that our God is in the business of recovering destitute, depleted, desperate sinners. Remember, sin will take us farther than we want to go and keep us longer than we want to stay. May we understand what sin does and realize how horrible it truly is.