The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most beloved stories in Scripture. In that story we see two sons who seem quite different on the surface, yet both were lost and looking for love in all the wrong places. Today I’d like to look at another son in the story who just might minister to you today, right where you are.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 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 . . .
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.’”(Luke 15:11-13, 25-32)
The younger son was in a faraway country, squandering an inheritance he did not deserve to receive at the time he requested it—“demanded it” might be a better description. The older brother was in a faraway condition, busily engaged in working his way into the father’s heart, not realizing he was already there. Both sons were lost; both of them were in desperate need of a Savior.
Some of us can relate to the prodigal; we’ve wandered off into some far country, seeking to satisfy the sinful desires of our hearts. Some of us would have to confess that we’ve acted a lot like the older brother; we’ve languished in a faraway condition, cold and indifferent to the Father’s love.
But as I said, there’s a third son not mentioned in the story . . . and we all know who he is. He is not far off or in a faraway condition; he is just adrift. With no intentional departure from His father’s presence, nor any real desire to win His favor, this son is simply going through the motions. He is making a living but not even close to making a difference. For this son, Wednesday is “hump day,” and the beginning of the weekend is marked by the letters TGIF.
Many of us are neither running away from nor running toward the One who has given us everything. We aren’t openly sinful like the prodigal, nor are we insufferably self-righteous like the older brother. We are simply floating on the surface of the sea, at the mercy of the strongest wind that is blowing at the time.
So . . . which of these three sons have you been acting like lately? Have you been running away from God? Running toward Him? Or ambling along on the proverbial treadmill?
We don’t need to be any of these three sons! The Gospel frees us from the need to run off to find our satisfaction in anything smaller than Jesus. The Gospel liberates us from the need to work our way into God’s divine favor. And the Gospel releases us to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit that flows from a heart that overflows with love and thanksgiving for all God has done. We are finally and fully freed from the “doing” in order to get—because we have already been given everything!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!