The Prodigal God

So my husband and I decided to take a class on Wednesday nights at our church. Aside from just going to service on Sunday mornings, we haven't really been as connected up there as we once were back in high school, plus I like to get out do things from time to time rather than just sit at home.

http://www.ebiblebookstore.com/images/pi_21315.jpegWe decided to take a class called Wire'd, where for the first 6 weeks or so we'll be going through a book/video called "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller and then the last part of the course we'll be discussing a variety of hot topics and seeing what the Bible says to each draw our own conclusions.

In the first week, we watched the first video session (here's a link to the The Prodigal God trailer so you can see a little bit of what I'm talking about), which breaks down the well known parable of The Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
1Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."  3Then Jesus told them this parable:

 11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
 13"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. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
 17"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! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So 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.

 21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[b]'
 22"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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
 28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Now there are several interesting things we learn here:
  • First, usually when you gain an inheritance, that means the person you are getting it from has died. So when the younger son goes to his still-living father and demands his inheritance now, he is basically telling his father "I wish you were dead." Also, in that time, when a father had 2 sons, when he died, the inheritance would be split by giving the oldest son 2/3 of the estate, while the younger would get 1/3. Being that the father was still alive in this case, he had to divide up what he currently had, which was no easy task; imagine having to sell 1/3 of everything you own - land, home, possessions, vehicles, stocks, etc in order to give exactly the amount of what it's worth to your child. (In the video, he has a 3 part table, where he removes the center section to illustrate this point).

  • Also, killing the fatten calf was not common - only was a celebration like that done for something major and you usually invited the entire village.

  • Another thing we learn, which often times is left out, is the reaction of the older brother. I always understood it from the point that he was just upset that his father was acting like a fool for being so accepting of the younger brother who was reckless and wasted everything. I never made the connection that part of the reason the older brother was so upset was that everything the father still owned, would one day be his, and here his father is wasting the best robe and prized fattened calf on the younger brother who already received everything he should have gotten from the father. Another reason he was upset was because he always did what he was told, never disobeyed and yet he never got rewarded for it, implying that he was only working hard to get a reward.

  • As we see in the first few verses, Jesus was talking to both the Pharisees and religious leaders and the sinners and tax collectors when he told this parable. Each brother represents one of these 2 groups - the younger is the sinners and tax collectors who are so obviously lost, while the older brother is the Pharisees and religious leaders who follow by the book and expect to be given what they feel they have earned - they don't understand why we should celebrate the sinners and tax collectors being "found" nor do they like it. The Father loves both his sons though reaches out to each of them.

  • When we discussed it, both brothers are clearly lost and usually you can see yourself in one brother or the other, which seems to be true when you really think about it - are you the type that always works hard to please others, or do you do what you want with no regard?

Another thing we discussed in our 2nd week is why so many people seemed to be turned off to the church, and the obvious reason is they feel many Christians are hypocrites, acting one way in church and another during the rest of the week. More people would rather hang out in a bar than at church because they feel less like to be judged at the bar or feel like they have "act" another way. The interesting thing regarding this that was mentioned was that if Jesus were around in the flesh today, He'd be hanging out in the bars with the "sinners," interacting with them, getting to know them and witnessing to them that way - He'd go to them, like the Father does to the older brother in the parable.

I think it's going to be an interesting series.
For those interested in checking it out, Wire'd meets Wednesday nights from 630-8pm First Evangelical Free Church, Rockford in room 139A with Pastor Jake Aldrich. The class goes from January 6 - April 21 and is $10/person, this includes the cost of the study guide.

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