2019-07-19 - The Man with Two Sons
The Personal Meaning
Originally published on 10-21-2011
We may see ourselves, today, as either of the two sons. We could be the lost Son. It's really easy to see ourselves here. It's easy to see and smell the pigpen; the wrinkles and scars of wild living are easy to spot.
We could also see ourselves as the other son. I don't know if the second son was lost or not, because he was at the father's house, but being in a garage doesn't make you a car. Whether he was lost or not, he didn't have the attitude or heart that the father wanted him to have.
I'd like to share with you five signs that you might be the older son.
You might be the older son, if you see red. Anger takes over the older brother in verse 28. Jordan was our only son for seven years, and all was well. But then Justin came along, and Jordan ceased to get all the attention. He became bitter and angry, and acted out at times. That's how some of us as older church members act. We get jealous when the new people are noticed and we're not. We do more to get attention, and then grow bitter when we still don't get the praise of others. "Pastor, I noticed some feet were tapping last Sunday, and the music got too loud. I didn't join this church 30 years ago, to see it get turned into a nightclub. I am a Baptist, not some radical hippie charismatic."
"Oh and Pastor, I saw someone in shorts, inside our sanctuary. And they had a hat on, too. Somebody needs to tell them we don't dress like that here." Vance Havner once said, "Some people are so afraid of going out on a limb, that they never get near the tree.”
You might be the older son, if you see righteousness in ourselves (self-righteous) and point it out like the brother in verse 29. Five times, he uses first person pronouns ."I work and I obey. You never gave ME a goat so I could party with my friends". I, ME, MY. It's all about him. Notice also his exaggerations - I never disobeyed or always obeyed. He had a blind spot to his own sin; we all often have these blind spots. As the eldest, he was supposed to help his father as host, but he stays out back, pouting and neglecting his duty. He could not see this act of disobedience while proclaiming his obedience.
When Dana asks me to do something, I'd better say "yes dear" and do it, but I can choose how to do it. I can do it just so she doesn't fuss at me, or I can do it because I love her and really want to help. With the first way, I'm going to do just enough to get by. I will load the dishwasher, slamming things around the whole time. But the second way, I'm going to rinse everything off like she does, load them, start it up and come back later to unload them.
Truth is, he knows how to obey, to blend in, but not really how to obey out of love. Obedience out of love is a joy.
You might be the older son if you see reimbursement or rewards, not gifts. We come to expect blessings for our service in verse 29. As a kid, I know I must've complained about stuff like "How come my big brother gets to stay out until 12 and I have to be in at 10? Why did he get to do this, or that and I can't?" I can remember how often we'd argue over who had to cut the biggest part of the yard. We all got the same allowance, though. The same thing is going on here. "How come he gets the fat calf, and I never even got the goat? Why's he get the party and not me? Waah! Waah! Waah!"
But he takes it a step further, and claims to be more deserving. I've been faithful to you, so you owe it to me. It's not fair that he gets to have all the fun of sin and the party at the end, too. The party was a celebration of the younger son, but it was not just for the younger son. The older son was encouraged to join in. But he refused, because he wasn't the guest of honor that he felt he deserved to be.
The prosperity gospel is built on this flaw - I do more to get more. In another parable (Matthew 20), though, Jesus says whether you work all day or just the last hour, you'll get the same wages. God can work out the deals anyway he wants. He is God; we need to let him be God, rather than trying to make God be like us. I am glad God isn't like me. I am grateful I don't get what I deserve, because I don't deserve the old goat, the fatted calf - or Heaven- for sure. Like the younger son, I know I don't deserve to even be called his son.
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted
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