Jesus’ greatest story in Luke 15 is about a guy who seemed like he was STRIVING, but ended up SEPARATED from His Father. And, a person who was STRIVING but ended up with God’s Security.

This younger son was almost sociopathically SELFISH!

He wanted to be free, but instead, he became a slave.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. John 8:34 NIV

This Selfish Son was a slave to the sinful choices he made.

There were some positive things about the younger son.

He was Decisive.

He left the pigsty to return to his Father. You can choose decide that nothing is going to keep you from God. You can decide you want the promises of God for your life and family. Why would you allow anything to come between you and God?

He was Willing.

…to do whatever it takes.

He knew he might look like a fool. People would probably laugh at him. Maybe he would have to start working for his brother. But, he was willing to do anything for his Father’s blessing! Some people are too proud to come to the Lord, so they stay outside with the pigs.

A lot of people miss that Jesus’ story of the selfish younger son is really a set-up for the real reason Jesus told this story. He was talking to those self-righteous religious leaders. After Jesus told them about the huge party the Father threw for his recovered son, the story goes on. Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

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.’” Luke 15:25-32

The Older Son was the Striver.

When I look at this older son, I see a guy who is always striving. He’s working hard! In verse 25: Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. (v. 25) He was “in the field” working – getting it done, doing the stuff.

That’s how religious people are. They’re always caught up doing the stuff: singing the songs, taking the classes, listening to sermons, going through the motions…

They love to talk about all the things they “don’t do.” The old saying goes: “I don’t drink, smoke, chew or go with the girls that do!” It’s all do this, don’t do that.

But, when you get past the surface, the striving son wasn’t there because he loved his father; he was there because he wanted what his father had to give him, his money. Think about that, both sons wanted the same thing: the inheritance. One just went a different way to get it.

The older son was separated from his Father too. He was out in the field instead of in the House with his father. The whole time, the father wanted to have a relationship with his sons.

The younger brother didn’t go to the field when he came home – he said, “I will set out and go back to my father…”

Don’t live in the Father’s field when there’s a place for you in His house.

The striving son was working on the “Salvation by Works” plan. He was trying to be good enough to save himself. He didn’t really have time for God because he was too busy working for God.

When He actually went back to see what was happening, he didn’t like what he saw. People were having fun! There was joy! It was a party! He said, “I thought you people were supposed to be working like me!”

He was mad that someone else was getting his Father’s attention and affection.

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. But when this son of yours…

He was all about, “What about me?” This self-righteous son couldn’t even call his brother, “brother.”

He was probably very insecure. It seems that he was never really sure if all of that work he did was really enough. He wasn’t secure in his relationship with his father. So, he was trying to earn his way instead of just living as the loved son that he was. It’s not a bad thing to work hard for God. That’s good. But the motive is the key. Why are you working? Is it to earn God’s love, or is it because you know how much you are already loved?

As a child of God, there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than He already does.

The older brother wanted to come in and go over the rules. The father and son just wanted to celebrate the grace and mercy of God.

Sometimes people look at the crowd that comes into The Connection Church, whether it’s in our youth group, our Celebrate Recovery ministry, and even on Sundays, and they say, “These people don’t know how to dress, or how to talk, or how to act right. And I have heard people ask the question, “Why are these people coming into this church?’ And I say to them, “It doesn’t matter that why they’re here. It just matters that they’re here.  In fact, I’m hoping that the worst of the worst shows up. I want every drug & porn addict, every thief and every liar, every person so covered up in guilt and shame that they think the roof is going to fall in and lightning is going to strike when they come through the doors.” I even like to say, “There’s even room for hypocrites like you!”

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Romans 5:20

Sin is a big deal and we can never take that lightly. I just know that GRACE is a MUCH, MUCH BIGGER DEAL!!!

You can argue and debate all you want over who deserves to be saved, but we CELEBRATE JESUS and the way He is still changing lives!!!

Religious people criticize what they can’t control!

they have a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 2 Timothy 3:5 NIV

The biggest tragedy in this whole story is found in verse 28:

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. Luke 15:28

He was so busy earning his spiritual points and judging other people that when the time came to put down his tools and come into the presence of his Father, he was mad and confused.

The Father has enough grace and mercy for both the older son and the younger son!

The Father’s Salvation and Security.

Salvation in this story is summed up in one phrase from the father: “Everything I have is yours.”

Look at what the Father does next. He gives him a…

Robe = Restoration

The robe is a visible sign of full restoration and the rights of being a son.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, Isaiah 61:10

When you are saved, God covers you from head to toe in his goodness!

Ring = Authority

The ring meant that the father gave the son his position of authority back to him. The ring was like a seal the son could use to seal documents on behalf of the family business.

Other family members, neighbors, servants may have judged this son for what he had done in the past and whether he was worthy to be a part of the family, but The RING settled the issue – You are a FULL HEIR!!!

Shoes = Freedom

The shoes immediately restored and elevated him above the position of a servant.

He instantly became a FREE MAN!!! Notice that he wasn’t sent to the field to work off his debts. He wasn’t given a lecture. He wasn’t compared to the older son.

Which son are you most like?

If you’ve been the selfish son, you can come home to the Father today. There are no lectures, no penalties – just Grace and Mercy!

If you’ve been the striving son, you can come home today. You don’t have to work to please God, because Jesus did the work for you

Stop living life on the outside looking in. The Father wants you to enter into His presence. He wants you to experience the fullness of His JOY and FAVOR!

The Difference between Religion and Relationship

The Bible is a big book and can be hard to understand sometimes, but the story of this boy really sums up the whole story of Jesus and his love for you. Many people like to say that all faiths are the same and stories like the Prodigal Son are found in many ancient texts. But other religions say you have to work your way to God. You have to deserve what you get. It’s called karma, what goes around comes around. The story of every other religion is man’s attempt to get to God. The story of Jesus is that He came all the way to where you are so that you could have a relationship with Him.

Who is a Child of God?

Everybody is not a child of God. The ones who are his children are those who have come home and placed their faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus gave His life so you could live. He rose from the dead and defeated sin once and for all. Jesus did all of this for you, so you can come into the house of God, and into His family.

Questions to Consider

  • Where are you in the birth order of your family- youngest, oldest, or middle child?
  • How would you describe the ideal father? Would you use those same words to describe your experiences with your father? Why or why not?
  • Who was the “obedient” one in your family? Who was the “rebellious” one?
  • What kept the older brother from coming into the house for the party?
  • Which brother reminds you the most of your own story? In what ways?
  • Read Romans 5:20. How does it make you feel to know that God’s grace is greater than all of your sin?
  • Where are you right now in your relationship with your parents? Where are you right now in your relationship with your Heavenly Father? How are these similar or different?
  • Read Isaiah 61:10. Since God has clothed you in His righteousness and sees you through the finished work of Jesus, how will you choose to live differently this week?
  • How does knowing you are a set free child of God change the way you see yourself this week
  • How can you have an even better attitude about welcoming home the lost into God’s family and church?