Summary: How do you parent adult children? Jesus tells us about a father who had 2 sons (we often talk about the prodigal son), but in the story we learn how our Father In Heaven parents us adult kids.
Lessons From A Dad
A. Next year Joshua plans to get married. Our youngest child will join the ranks of his siblings and be married. Our nest will officially be empty. But does that mean I stop being a dad to our four kids or a good father-in-law to their spouses? What is my responsibility to my kids and their family once they leave home and become their own family – leaving father and mother and cleaving to their spouse? These questions are not made up questions, but things I think about and have been thinking about since our first child got married.
B. I am drawn to stories in the Bible about godly dads. I want to live in such a way that even though my kids are no longer at home, they will never doubt my love for them or my desire for them to be right with God. The story we listen to today is told by Jesus and the dad of the story is a representation of God the Father. But before we dig into the dad of the story, it’s helpful if we hear and understand why Jesus tells the story.
I. Background Gives Meaning to the Message
A. Luke records for us the context of the three parables we find in Luke 15. While the parables are very familiar, I want to start with why Jesus told those three parables before we look at the last one today.
B. Luke 15 opens with these words (Read Lk 15:1-2). The reason for parables is verse 2, “this man receives or welcomes sinners and eats with them.” That’s the issue here. Jesus interacts with them as if they were equals or friends.
C. To appreciate the parables, you need to understand this group of people that came to Jesus, whom Jesus has table fellowship with, are people who, by definition, were excluded from the religious community. Jesus accepted these people for who they were, not what they were worth to the religious assembly. Jesus wanted them to hear God speak.
D. Jesus is not condoning their actions but is affirming their value in the eyes of God. I say that, because in all three parables, the message is that when a person repents, God forgives. Jesus is not saying these people don’t need to repent, in fact, just the opposite. There is repentance that needs to take place, but when it does, forgiveness is immediately and completely given by God. God desires these “tax collectors and sinners” to be a part of the great family of God.
II. God Hurts
A. Let’s look at the dad of the last story and see what lessons we can learn from him. READ Lk 15:11-12. I have heard people say that the father in this story was wrong for giving the younger son his inheritance. You may disagree with what the dad did, but before you say his actions were unwise, let me remind you that the father of the story Jesus tells, is our Father in heaven. It is Jesus talking about how God the Father deals with his children, specifically, the tax collectors and sinners.
B. The giving to the younger son is simply the statement that our Father in Heaven gives us the freedom to love him or forsake him. God won’t force your obedience. He wants you to want him, to see your need for him, to rely upon him, but God won’t make you stay in the family. You need to understand a truth that is seen in the overall story, God hurts when we think we know better how to live our lives, than being under the guidance of God and a part of the family of God.
C. There are parents who know exactly what this opening is like. They hurt because their child leaves home and throws the love of the parents away. It’s not that child hates the dad, but the child believes he can lead his life better than being at home with dad. When children refuse a parent’s love because they want to do their own thing despite the warning given by the parent, that parent hurts.
D. If I sit with this story and examine me, I find that I bring pain to God when my desire to live my life my way is me being like the younger son who wants what God has to offer, but not the God who is offering it. It is dismissing God when I crave sin more than desire a relationship with Him..
III. God Forgives
A. But there is more to this teaching by Jesus than just that God hurts when I choose to live in sin instead of in relationship with him. We know the younger son takes his money, goes far away and wastes that money until it’s gone. Once the money is gone a famine strikes where the young man is living and he has two choices: die of starvation or find a job to survive. The boy is sent to feed pigs that are more valuable to the owner than the young man is. The boy is feeding pigs and wishes his food was as good to eat as the slop he fed the pigs. But our story is not about this boy.