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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 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. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.'"
We have been taking a look at lostness. There are four types of lostness revealed in this portion of Scripture. None of them are good.
There were the Pharisees and teachers of the law who were lost within their faith due to their self-righteousness.
There is the lost sheep who became lost from the flock when he nibbled himself away from the shepherd through self-indulgence.
There is the woman whose lost focus resulted in a lost coin because of her self-satisfaction.
The third parable deals with a father and his two sons which shows that lostness can happen within the family because of self-interest.
Jesus saved the best story for last.
It is not unusual for a man to have two sons and it is not unusual for that man to be quite wealthy. That was the scenario that Jesus sets for this parable.
It is not unheard of for a father to choose to distribute his fortune to his sons while he is still alive, that was often how they handled their retirement. What is very unusual was a youngest son coming to his father and demanding that the father release his portion of the family fortune. That shows gross disrespect, almost contempt, for the father.
Amazingly, the father capitulates to the request and gives it to the son!
The same foolish, immature, self-interest that drove the son to demand his fortune was not a formula for success. Predictably, armed with the means to do so, he rushed foolishly into self-destruction wasting money on wine, women, and wantoness.
My mother has a lot of wisdom. She always says, "A person wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package." This youngest son proved that point. What his father had accumulated over a lifetime, he squandered in weeks.
This is one of the most powerful pictures of what it means to be lost. He was separated from his father, feeling foolish and flat broke. I was there once. So were you. It is the human condition. It is how sin plays out in your life. Lostness is caused by spiritual separation from your Heavenly Father. He is holy and you are sinful. Because He is the source of life and love, the fact you are separated from Him means that you are cut off from the source of spiritual life. God is also the source of wisdom. Because we are cut off from that source of wisdom we do foolish things. The result of those two factors is that we end up spiritually broke. Bankrupt, actually.
Self-interest is the root of sin. Sin deceives us into believing that we can be in control of our lives and sin without consequences. That never has a happy ending. It didn't end well for the younger son and it won't for you. You may be familiar with the pain that self-interest can inflict on relationships. It can cripple a marriage. It can alienate children from parent and parent from children. Some of you are all too familiar with the pain and lonliness caused by people living under the same roof but pursuing selfish interests. There is nothing lonlier than being lonely within marriage and family relationships.
If you are familiar with that pain, you understand lostness. If you have experienced that pain you can relate to how God feels toward His many lost sons and daughters.
This story has a happy ending. We will consider that in a later post.
But first, you need to realize that when you look at the younger son you are looking at your own selfish nature. When you look at the younger son's plight, you are looking at your future. Just as his selfishness did him in, so will yours. It will drive you to flee from the Father and from the freedom of the mansion to the filth of the pigpen.
If you REALLY have self-interest, flee TO the Father. You don't have to stay in the sty. There is a way back home.