Summary: Although the main focus of the Prodigal Son parable is the ungracious brother, the assumptions made about the Prodigal’s father are enlightening.

The Heart of a Father

(Luke 15:11-32)

1. Father’s Day -- what can we say?

2. Sermon Central took a poll, and this would be mostly of pastors. The question and results are as follows:

What do you expect for Father’s Day?

A big deal 3%

Simple card/gift 42%

Nothing 35%

Surprise me 19%

3. That poll might sound like fathers are neglected. Although I typically get a simple card and gift, it is a small gift. Why? Because anything I really want I have already bought!

4. It is different, being the father of adult children. We had a great time visiting our daughter in suburban Washington D.C., in Northern Virginia.

5. We went to church with her Sunday morning, and we were not disappointed. She is involved in an excellent church, Reston Bible Church. The church even has AWANA.

6. The pastor preached about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and he did a good job interpreting and applying it.

7. He rightly concluded that the focus of the parable was the Prodigal’s brother who was bitter that the dad forgave the Prodigal and threw a feast for him.

8. Luke makes this clear in Luke 15:1-2; the parables Jesus would teach would refute the ungracious attitude of the Pharisees in question. They were like the ungracious brother.

9. A few months ago, I wrote "Prodigal Son Parable" on my calendar square for Father’s Day. And even though I heard Pastor Minter’s sermon on this parable, my approach will be different because I am going to focus on a side character.

Main Idea: Although the main focus of the Prodigal Son parable is the ungracious brother, the assumptions made about the Prodigal’s father are enlightening.


A. He Had Worked Hard and Saved Money (apparently)

1. Most of us are probably not as wealthy, when compared to the norm, as this man

--wealth or deprivation are always relative…

2. Most men have a dual instinct to provide for the family & protect the family

3. It is ironic how modern society has changed these dynamics

• We live in an age of the specialist, whereas people used to be generalists

• Yet, when it comes to gender specialization, we have gone the opposite direction

• And so flex we must; but men still need that sense of responsibility to protect & provide…

• Men have made a big transition in my lifetime, but are often not given credit…

• Some of the older men in our church have never changed a diaper, for example…

B. He Wanted His Sons to Walk with the Lord

----- We can assume he had trained his son as did almost all Jewish men

----- Probably trained his son in the Scripture, prayer, and godly living

------Practical training as well….(do not minimize)


How many of these things are relevant and how many need to be qualified? Which are keepers?

10.When he was your age, kids had to walk six miles to school in the snow and rain . . . uphill both ways.

9. If he had acted like you, his father would have knocked him into the middle of next week.

8. When he was your age, kids had to make their own fun.

7. You weren’t born in a barn.

6. When he was your age, he had to work for what he got.

5. You don’t wanna make Dad stop the car.

4. “Because I said so” is a reason that makes perfect sense to an adult.

3. Stop crying or he’ll give you a reason to cry (like you didn’t already have one).

2. You’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached.

And the #1 thing you learned from your father . . .

1. Money doesn’t grow on trees!

SOURCE: Submitted by Bob Hostetler, Cobblestone Community Church, Oxford, Ohio. Sermon Central

If some Dr. Spock-like psychologist wrote this parable, he might say that the Prodigal left home because his father oppressed him, or that he was sheltered from life by his overly-protective mother and the poor financial prospects in a profit-driven society. Or they would blame it on the president who should have provided more programs to occupy troubled teens and young men.

Or others could argue that the Rabbis were not strict enough, or that the boy was forced to go the Synagogue every Saturday and now he is rebelling.

But the parable is woefully lacking in blame. The son --despite his father’s goodness -- made a choice -- it was that simple. And sometimes, folks, that is still what happens today. We each have wills of our own.

Some dads do mess up big time and seriously scar or traumatize or embitter their children. A number of you have suffered emotional handicaps because of your dads. But sometimes it can be too easy to blame dad and thus avoid personal responsibility. We can do wrong things and defend ourselves to our consciences in the name of upbringing.


Last week I pointed out that it is foolish to make decisions based on a feeling, yet, in contrast, I told you that it is good to pray based upon how you feel.

For years I have been telling men, "Be proactive; take initiative." Well, today I am going to say, "sometimes you need to be passive."

A man who has a track record of being pro-active is often wise to sometimes be passive by choice; this is different from passivity out of weakness.

A. He Respected the Rights and Choices of His Adult Sons

In some families, grown children are never viewed as adults by their parents -- or sometimes even siblings treat their brothers or sisters as if they were still sharing childhood.

Parental control needs to lessen as children approach adulthood and then needs to have an ending point.

Do you enjoy those classic British mysteries? Poirot, Miss Marple, Campion? They often involve wealthy families in which the adult children do nothing except mooch off their parents via allowances. Then someone in the family eventually gets tired of being controlled and knocks off the elderly parent to get his or her inheritance.

These sorts of arrangements are unnatural. With money comes control, and that’s why adults need to support themselves.

In this parable, the Prodigal son does not have to put hemlock in father’s tea: he asks for his inheritance, and dad gives it.

B. It Broke His Heart, But He Had to Let His Son Fail


A. He Stood EAGER to Forgive

The Fatherly instinct to teach a child so that they learn from mistakes is something dads must surrender as their children become adults.

Neither should wrongs committed be minimized. But when another is truly repentant, we must be generous with our grace.

B. He Did Not WITHHOLD Grace

When we have wronged someone, asked for forgiveness, and done whatever we can do to make restitution. If you have taken responsibility for your wrongs, have not excused them, and have begun a road to re-establish credibility and have asked another for forgiveness, the ball is in their court. If they will not forgive you, that is now between them and God.

Not everyone is gracious. Some people think they can protect themselves from future hurt or gain control by being stingy with grace. Whereas being naïve is just goofy, we are wise to cautiously forgive, particularly if an offense is not repeated.

C. Many children feel regret at hurting their mothers, but, even though some dads may not show it, they often experience just as deep a hurt as moms when their children make foolish choices. Many dads exercise more compassion than family members realize.

IV. His Love for BOTH Sons

Both moms and dads are accused of loving one child above the other. Sometimes this is indeed the case, but sometimes it is simply a false perception.

A. He Treated His Sons Fairly But Not EQUALLY

Dr. Kevin Leman in his The New Birth Order book shares a typical pattern of how children turn out based upon birth order; it is by no means without exception. Here is a typically scenario in a family of three children not too many years apart…

Usually the first born is a bit of a perfectionist and very conscientious.

The second born is a mediator, has many friends, and is a bit of a maverick.

The third born is a people person, charming, and seeks lots of attention.

An only child is a little adult by age seven and self-motivated.

Between inherited personalities, birth order, and parental expertise (that improves with experience) we naturally cannot treat our children exactly the same-- but fairly.

B. He REASONED With His Sons

The son who remained at home and was faithful to dad, the firstborn; he was bitter that his father treated his renegade son better than he seemed to treat his firstborn.

In essence, he did treat them differently, because they were different people with different needs. But that does not mean he loved one more than the other, or valued one above the other. It was a case of comparing apples with oranges.

C. He Did not ABANDON Grace to Please His [other] Son

Sometimes people resent it when another is gracious, and sometimes graciousness can be unfair.

My brother-in-law Joel, worked hard to turn paper in on time…Teacher said she would not extend the deadline...he pulled in all-nighter and got it it--then teacher extended deadline; Joel answered that it was unfair, and he persuaded her to give the students who did turn in their papers on time "extra credit."

Yet that teacher would not have been wrong to give one student more time because he had a death in the family or some other truly extenuating circumstance besides just a dose of procrastination…


1. Being a dad is an inexact science. Our efforts may not be appreciated, especially since many of us are so private with our thoughts.

2. But we are not dads for the applause of men or the approval of others.

3. Instead, we need to father our children to the glory and God and for their best interest.