Tale of Two Sons
Luke 15:11-31 (The parable of the prodigal son)
(For the sake of clarity the younger son will be called Billy and the older son will be called Johnny.)
Billy comes right out and asks his father for his inheritance and he wants it now. He is tired of living on the farm, he wants to go out on his own and do things his way. Billy packs up and heads off for parts unknown. He arrives and immediately starts spending his money. Of course, he gains several friends in the process who would stay around as long as the cash was flowing. He spent his money gambling, partying, fell into all sorts of peer pressure. He always had to have the best.
Billy soon runs out of money and quickly runs out of friends, too. He finds out just how much those friends are willing to help. Times are hard and Billy no longer has a place to stay or money to buy food. He needs to get a job just to be able to eat. He managed to find a job, but it didn’t exactly pay what he wanted or needed to survive and he found himself eating the same slop he was feeding the pigs. He had it made at home; he just couldn’t see it at the time. Now he realizes that home is where he belonged all the time. His only hope is his father would at least let him come back and work as a slave. So, out of desperation and starvation Billy returns home hoping his father would take him back as a slave. At least he wouldn’t starve.
His father must have been out on the porch watching. He probably had been doing this every day since Billy left, wondering when he would return. When he saw Billy in the distance, he ran out to greet him. Filled with compassion, he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. Billy told his father, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Billy’s father would hear nothing of it and ordered slaves to put a ring on his finger and put the best robe and sandals on Billy. Then he told them to prepare for a party. They were celebrating the return of his son!
Then there’s Johnny. He heard the music, smelled the bar-b-cue going and asked his father what was happening. He was told Billy had returned and everyone was celebrating. Johnny became angry and refused to go to the party. His father went to him and pleaded with Johnny to come and join the celebration. Johnny replied, “I worked hard and never disobeyed your orders, but you never threw a party for me to celebrate with my friends.”
“But Billy goes on a wild spree, spends every penny of his inheritance, and comes crawling back and you throw the party of the year!” His father replies, “Son you are always with me and everything I have will be yours. But we had to celebrate Billy’s return, he was lost and now he is found!”
Let’s break this story down a little differently than we normally hear. I believe we see two types of sinners in this story. One, you have Billy the obvious sinner, and two, Johnny the secret sinner.
Obvious sinner – Billy knew the Lord, but he was rather immature. He was outspoken, up front in what he wanted. He made no bones about the fact he wanted it all. But what happened when all of it disappeared? He came crawling back with nothing. Isn’t that how sin works? Satan convinces you it is okay to have it all. He convinces you it doesn’t matter how you get it or what you do with it. You take it and milk it for all it’s worth. But, you find out sin will only get you so far. The euphoria of having it all doesn’t last, friends don’t last, money doesn’t last, and what do you have left? There is a reason Satan is called the destroyer! Peter tells us, “Be Alert! The Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for anyone he can devour.” Satan’s primary mission is to keep someone from accepting Jesus as their savior. If he fails, his alternate mission is to destroy a Christian’s witness. He is out to destroy God’s world at all cost! Billy wasn’t alert, look where it got him! Sleeping in pig pens, eating pig slop. But, in the end, he found out when he came home his father was waiting for him. He found out his father still loved him. He found out his father willingly forgave him.
As Christians, we get complacent and lazy. We forget that we should be striving to be Christ-like DAILY. We fall into the worldly traps Satan has put in front of us. Some get out and have it “all” during the week and come crawling back to God on Sunday mornings looking to be forgiven. Then there are those who get away from church and God altogether and some tragic event may bring them back. Whatever the situation we can claim the promise in 1 John 1:19, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All we have to do is confess our sins and we will find out that God, our Father, is still on the porch waiting for us to return. We will find out that God, our Father, has never stopped loving us. We will find out that God, our Father, will faithfully and lovingly forgive us. He will clean us up and welcome us home with open arms.
Secret sinner – Johnny was always home. It was important to him to work hard for his father and for his coming inheritance. He was prideful and wanted to be noticed, he wanted a party thrown for him, too. He lives a good life; he goes to church, he is a member on two or three committees, he sings in the choir, etc. He believes his denomination is the only way. Johnny believes he should be rewarded for everything he has done and is disappointed when he isn’t recognized. He has convinced himself that he has earned his way to heaven. Johnny is playing at Christianity.
The Johnnies of the church are the hardest to reach, because they have deceived themselves into thinking they can earn their way. They have fooled themselves into thinking they are saved and have a reservation for the Pearly Gates. Being a Baptist, being a Methodist, filling the pew, singing beautifully, teaching Sunday School or driving the church bus twice a month won’t get you to heaven. These folks have a surprise in store for them if they die before they realize that they are without God’s grace. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:22-23, “On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” Those are words I never want to hear. I believe the Johnnies of the church are the ones who will keep the church active after the rapture. When they find themselves still on this earth when Christ returns, they will then realize what they missed.
Billy grew up and realized that turning back to God was the only way to have it “All”. He found out that all he needed to do was confess his sins and he would be welcomed back home with open arms. Johnny, on the other hand, convinced himself that he earned it “all”. But, it doesn’t matter how many committees he serves on or that he is in church every time the doors are opened, if Johnny doesn’t open his eyes and realize the only way to heaven is being saved by God’s grace through Jesus Christ, he will be destined for eternity in Hell. Who can you compare yourself to?