High profile redeemed sinners draw a crowd. People often flock to hear the testimony of someone who has a great wrenching conversion story. But there's something wrong with this picture. The prominence ought to be given to those who early in life gave them-selves to Jesus Christ and faithfully obeyed the call.

  I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every week. I heard the gospel preached over and over many times by my own father. He was a lay preacher, and I often accompanied him to meetings. When I was 14, I fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and trusted Christ as my Savior. I have been living for Him ever since. I stand on the record of my life. I've had some ups and downs, but I have never "copped out" on the Lord. There is no awful shadow of horrible sin in my life.

But no one has ever asked me to speak on the merits of my personal testimony. I work it into messages, but I have never been specifically asked to share my story. To be honest, I sometimes get a little weary of people who tell you about their lives of debauchery or criminality. It seems like we give those folks top billing. When they tell their salvation story, people say, "Ooh! Aah! Incredible!" I can almost hear people yawning when I tell my simple story!

  In chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel, we find the story of the so-called prodigal son. Most people rejoice over the return of the prodigal, and rightly so, and rebuke the older brother for his bad attitude. However, I have come to the conclusion that we ought to give the older brother a break.

"Then drew near unto [Jesus] all the tax collectors and sinners to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." (Luke 15:1 & 2)

Jesus' teaching draws a large crowd of people, among them tax collectors, sinners and Pharisees. The Pharisees were irritated that the castaways were center stage and getting all the attention. Hadn't they kept the law and lived meticulous lives of morality? Now it appeared that their morality counted for little or nothing.

I read an interesting article a few years ago in which the author objected to our tendency to put down and demean the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the fundamental Bible-believers of that day. They believed in the inspiration of Scriptures, in a life after death, in angels and in the supernatural. Even though their behavior was legalistic, they basically believed everything right that one ought to believe. But they have gotten a raw deal over the years.

  If I have my choice according to what Jesus taught here of being the prodigal or the Pharisee, I want to be the Pharisee!

  Did that statement surprise you? Evangelists and Bible teachers have used this text over the years, and properly so, in evangelistic outreach as a call to repentance. But that is not the point of the last part of this story. I believe that it is not so much about a prodigal as it is about a Phariseethe un-prodigal son.

  Endeavoring to balance the joy of restoration with the greater blessing of remaining faithful, Jesus addresses the Pharisees' concern through three stories.


Lost and Found
In the first part of the chapter, we have God's Lost & Found department. Notice that there is a
diminution of quantity and an increase in quality as the chapter progresses.

      "And [Jesus] spoke this parable to them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." (Luke 15:4-6).

      There were ninety-nine sheep in the fold, and one was lost. So the shepherd goes out to find it, and when he does, he lays it on his shoulders. I like that.

      In the Old Testament, the priest had emblems of the nation on his breastplateon his chest. But he also had them on his shoulders.

      The Bible speaks of our Lord, "the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The

Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) We are on our great High Priest's chestthe emblem of love. But we are also on His shoulderthe emblem of strength, and one day we shall reign with Him forever and ever.

      The shepherd lays the precious sheep on his shoulder, and he brings it home. The natural thing to do is to celebrate!

      "Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost." (Luke 15:8 & 9)

      Sheep would seem to be a little more valuable than silver, but that is not so. This coin isn't just a quarter that rolled into a corner! In my library, I have an old book about Bible Lands customs. In it is a stunning photograph of a middle eastern woman wearing a headdress of silver coins. It is a carry-over from an ancient practice. In Jesus' day, coins were gathered together as a sort of dowry, and a bride wore them around her head like women of today wear a wedding ring on their finger. If one coin was missing, it would be noticed by all! These coins were the emblem of her marriage. As long as the coins were in place, it was an announcement that the marriage was secure.

      But suppose the husband came home from the fields and found that the wife had been careless about the dowry and one of those silver coins was missing? Carelessness with the coins could be inferred as carelessness about the marriage. So she gets her lamp and her broom and she searches the house inch by inch until she finds the coin. This is such a significant event that she calls her friends and neighbors in for a party.

      There were one hundred sheep, and one of them was lost. Then there were ten pieces of silver, and one was lost. Now we're down to two sons, and one is lost. In the beginning, both boys are at home.


Living at Home

     "And he said, A certain man had two sons." (Luke 15:11)


     In Luke 15, I believe Jesus related two parables and one actual story. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the passage about the prodigal son was a parable or an actual account. I believe it was true. The passage does not start out "what man" as in verse 4 or "what woman" as in verse 8. It says, " A certain man" This was a story about a real live place and a real live family.


     There were two sons in my familymy brother and I. As the older of the two, I can feel this situation rather keenly. It seemed to me that my brother was born with an innocent smile. No matter what he did, he could worm out of responsibility and shift the blame for whatever was going wrong between us onto me. I'd get walloped, and my younger brother would get a pat.


     Youngest children seem to be born with manipulative ability. It was a moral challenge to me as a Christian father to mete out punishment when needed and deliver it evenly.


     I recall a time when we were in a restaurant, and our youngest daughter, who was about four years old at the time, proceeded to cause a commotion and embarrass the family. I said to her, "Cut that out," and she didn't. I said it a second time, and she kept on. The third time, I said, "Look, this isn't going to go on. We can do one of two things. We can pray about this and get victory for you or I can discipline you." This was a public place, and, manipulative as she was, she looked at me as if to say, "You wouldn't dare!" I had to courageously look at her and say, "Yes, I would." I asked her if she wanted to pray or get spanked. There was silence on her part.


     A few minutes later, she began cutting up again. I pulled her out of the booth and headed out the door to the car. And she screamed at the top of her lungs, "Let's pray!" But it was too late! I took her out to the car and rolled up the windows, and I spanked her (this was before the ACLU was going full tilt and the child rights movement terrorized correcting parents). And then I said, "Let's pray." And we did.


     Some children need an extra measure of discipline in their formative years. It could be that this father somehow brought the problem on himself by failing to discipline his younger son.


     This boy grew up with all the advantages and accouterments of a wonderful Jewish family. He was born into luxury and wealth. Evidently it is a thriving farm. The inheritance of this acreage probably stretched all the way back to the days of Joshua when the land was divided up. But somehow along the way, he got the notion that his personal preferences took precedent over God's laws and family rights. This proud, haughty, self-centered, spoiled brat is about to bring down the family house in terms of order and peace.


Rejecting Home

     "And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living." (Luke 15:12)


     This boy is a real humanist. "Give me!" All he is thinking about is himself. Me, me, me!


     Over the years, I have tried to figure out how this attitude developed. I can remember times as a kid when I was sent out to the back lot to hoe potatoes or whatever there was to hoe. Sometimes it would get hot in the middle of the day. The sweat would start running down into my eyes, and I would begin to think, "There must be a better way than this." I would probably have been worse off if I'd had an older brother bossing me around.


     Perhaps the older brother took the easy jobs and, the pecking order being what it is, the younger brother got the dirty jobs. I suspect that one day this boy was out working in the field. It may have been hot. He was grumbling and muttering under his breath. And he began to hear a voice. The devil used a compromising situation to whisper into his ear, "You don't have to stay on this crummy farm. It's cramping your social style. You're under your older brother who's at you all the time. Aren't you tired of mom complaining about you not cleaning up your room?


     "And has it ever occurred to you that your father is healthy and might not die for a long time yet? You won't get your inheritance until then! Why don't you press the issue?


     "By the way, there are wonderful reports of what's happening over in Syria. Life is good down in Egypt. You don't have to say here. You're young only once! Take what's coming to you and have a good time!"


     I don't know when this young man finally made his announcement to the family, but I can imagine what it was like. If you're going to drop a verbal nuclear bomb, don't do it at breakfast. Everyone is wolfing down their eggs and bacon and running off to work or school. Don't do it at lunch when the family is here, there and everywhere. Wait until dinner! Wait until the table is set and everything is just right. Wait until everyone has come together to share the blessings of the day and good familial fellowship.


     And here's how to lead up to it. Don't eat. Don't talk. Just sit there. If you want to do a little irrigation, take your mashed potatoes and gravy and build dykes and drain them off into your plate. Or go the sports route and bang your peas around like a hockey player. Wait until mom or dad says, "What's wrong?" and give the stock answer, "Nothing!" (When my kids said that, I knew something was really wrong!) If you really want to get attention, slam down your fork!


     I imagine the boy's speech went something like this. "I want to say something! I don't like this place anymore. Mom, I'm tired of you being on my case."


     Pointing to his older brother, he said, "And you! You boss me around all the time like I'm an immature kid. Why do you have boss me around all the time? I'm a grown up!"


     Then he looked at his father. "And Dad, why do you have to be so hard on me all the time? 'Don't do this!' and 'Don't do that!' You don't like my friends, and you criticize what I do in the fields. I'm sick and tired of waiting for my inheritance. I want it now!"


     The boy asks for "the portion of goods that falleth to me." The literal translation of "falleth" is "comes tumbling down upon." It is a reference to what would inevitably happen when the father died and the inheritance was divided up.


     What the son was really saying was, "Dad, as far as I'm concerned, I want you to treat me in life as I will be treated at your death. Give me what's mine now!" He was looking at his father as though the man was dead. What a blow! 


     Something in the father probably did die that day. Many a mom and dad has gone to a premature grave because an obstinate, ornery, wayward child literally thumbed his nose at God and them and said, "As far as I'm concerned, you're as good as dead. The only thing I'm interested in regarding this family is what you can give me."


     Many Christians have also pathetically fallen into this trap in thinking that our heavenly Father exists only for their personal, immediate, selfish whims, that God is to be manipulated at their command. They prefer fleeting, immediate gratification to eventual, permanent and increased blessing.


     The Bible doesn't record the father's response in terms of what he said. I'm sure he was stunned and shaken and grieved. It may have taken him a while to absorb what the boy had asked.


     The Bible simply says that he "divided unto them his living." The Greek word translated as "living" in the King James Version is "bios" meaning "livelihood." It is a different word for life than "zoe," which refers to the higher aspects of life. The son was not interested in his father's spiritual life. His thoughts were only on his father's physical life and how much he had accumulated. Consequently, he forced the father's "death" and the division of his assets.


Leaving Home

     "And not many days after that, the younger son gathered all together" (Luke 15:13)


     The Greek word for "gathered" is the same word from which we get synagogue, which means "to gather together." The worship/social/ discussion center of the Jewish community was the synagogue. When this boy should be thinking about the synagogue and God's Word and the implications of going awry, he is only interested in gathering his things and getting out of there in a hurry!


     In my travels, many pastors have sadly told me of people who left emotionally before they left physically. Perhaps that describes you. Perhaps you're leaving a marriage. Maybe you're leaving a family or a church fellowship, but you haven't physically left yet. Think long and hard before you really leave. A perceptive preacher once said, "What we have in modern life is a stampede away from responsibility." The problem may lie more with you and not them, and the consequences of leaving may be hard to bear.


     When he "gathered all together," this son took his father's life in terms of his livelihood. He asked it to "fall" on him prematurely. He is not interested in the synagogue gatheringa gathering of spiritual things. He is interested only in temporal, worldly, material things.


     I see many people in our churches today who are the same way. Paul asks in I Corinthians 4:7, "And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" Everything that we havelife and breath, health and ability, wealth and blessingcomes from God. We did not invent life. We did not invent the air. We did not design our ability to exist and achieve and gain wealth. It is all the gift of God! If it is selfishly appropriated, then it is misappropriated.


     So the young man puts his future inheritance into present cash. He leaves what his parents love. He leaves what God cherishes. And in doing so, he leaves the blessing of God.


Wasting Home

"and [he] took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living." (Luke 15:13)


     He wasted what he had! The word here is the same used for scattering seed or throwing it about (Matt. 25:24). It is also used to describe winnowingwheat is thrown into the wind to separate the grain from the chaff. The word translated as "riotous" in the King James comes from a Greek word meaning "not to be saved." In the "prodigality" of a Christian, it is living like you are unsaved. As a mercenary concept, it is living in a wasteful, non-investment mannerliving only for the here and now with no regard for the future.


     A modern generation has grown up this way. We call them the "Now Generation." They didn't want to study history, which was too far in the past. Nor did they want to study prophecy, which was too far in the future. They wanted to live only for today.


     But there is no such thing as an absolute "now." There is only the past and the future, and they overlap slightly somewhere in "now." You can't grab even one second as it goes by! It is like looking straight out the car window and trying to focus on the nearest landscape as it speeds past. It's a blur. But if you look ahead at something coming, you can see it when it gets there and you can follow it as it goes by.


     This young man lived with no sense of investment. He thought he was going to do the impossible and live for the here and now, and somehow this was going to satisfy the craving of his soul and feed him in his old age. An irresponsible boy is going to pay dearly for his foolishness.


Longing for Home

     "And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!" Luke 15:14-17)


     He had not planned on his money running out or his fair-weather friends fleeing when the funds failed. And he surely did not figure on a famine! Suddenly he is alone and feeling a pain in his belly that he had not felt before. So he hooks up with a foreign farmer who was apparently not even giving him anything to eat.


     The word translated as "joined" is the Greek word for "glued." He is stuck to a citizen of that far county, and now the ultimate indignity is upon himhe is sent to feed swine. Back home, this Jewish boy ate beef, but he never touched a pork chop! Previously, he worked in his father's fields, but now he is in a foreigner's fields. Before he sat at his father's table. Now he is in a pig sty!


     Hunger pangs gnaw at his stomach, and he looks down at the husks. These are actually carob pods, which are very nourishing and delicious. Carob is a substitute for chocolate. Oh, did he have a craving! "Those pigs are eating better than I am," he says. He reaches out for a bunch of those pods, but the boss says, "Put that down! Pig food is too good and too expensive for you!"


     There are times when the Lord lets the recalcitrant sinner go just as far he needs to go. Sometimes we also must practice what is called "tough love." Some rebellious young people think they have their parents on a string and they can wiggle them any way they want to. As a parent, you may have to say to a defiant son or daughter, "If that's what you want, you're not going to wreck the rest of my life. I've done my best and raised you as God wanted you raised. You're on your own, and you'll have to stand before God. When you're sick and tired of it, we'll be here."


     The phrase "he came to himself" literally means "he walked in on himself." The composite, cumulative effect of perpetual sin is a type of insanity where you no longer see reality for what it is. This boy was, in a spiritual sense, out of his mind.


     But in a journey to the heart of the soul, he turns around and sees himself for what he really is. He is a failure; he is a mess. And then he gets a wonderful vision of home. When he comes to himself, he says, "I remember how it was back home!"


     Those wonderful memories of the days when things were right in the family are an investment in the human memory that God ensures is permanent. And sometimes that is the only thing the rebel has to hang on tothe way it was when things were right.


     This boy knows that the hired servants at home are eating better than he is. If he doesn't eat, he is going to die! ("Perish" here is the same word in John 3:16.) He knows that he is in a terrible predicament, and there is no deliverance for him unless he goes back to his roots. He is remembering home!


Going Home

     "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of they hired servants." (Luke 15:18 & 19)


     This young man probably gave a good, free-flowing speech that night at dinner. Did you ever notice that when you're mad, the words just roll off your tongue? Now, it is time to craft another speech, but this time the words come hard.


     "I will arise" I can imagine him sitting there with the pigs and getting up. The boss asks, "Where are you going?" and the young man replies, "I'm going home!" "You're going where? You can't go home! You've blown it. You've got no money. You've got no reputation. They know what you've been doing out here!" But the boy knows it is his only hope and he has to give it a try.


     He heads out, and then he sees the friends he used to hang out with. "Where are you going?" they ask. "I'm going home!" he says. "Where? You said you would never go back there!" "But I've changed my mind. I'm starving. I've come to myself., and I'm sane again!"


     The first step in going home is to get up and get moving. You have to take firm and even painful action. As this boy did, you need to confess your sin, get up and get out of the sinful foreign land and go home. Do it right now if necessary.


     "and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned.'" Boy, that's a hard one! Have you ever noticed how people always blame someone else when they try to worm out of something? It's the church's fault or the government's fault. Their background was bad or their genes are wrong. They have no talent or didn't get the right breaks. Often, they blame God. But you never get anywhere that way! Finally, you have to say the hardest words you will ever have to say. "I have sinned."


     "I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." Notice the order here. Ultimately, the sin is against God. David said that in Psalm 51. "Have mercy upon me, O GodAgainst thee, thee only, have I sinned" (Psalm 51: 1, 4) That is where the ultimate problem is.


     We live in a society where people are spending a lot of money and expending a lot of energy in expensive, ineffective secular therapy. What they really need to do is to admit, "I have sinned against God." That is the root of the problem. I have heard the argument, "You have to treat the whole man!" I believe that, but you cannot treat the whole man until you first deal with the un-whole man.


     "and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me as one of thy hired servants." It might not have looked like he was paying attention in synagogue class, but God ensured that he was. I think the prodigal paid just enough attention to remember what it says way back in the Old Testament.


     In Leviticus 25, we find an amazing passage. "If thy brother hath become poor, and cannot support himself among you, then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee." And then a little later, it says, "And if thy brother who dwelleth by thee has become poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a slave; but as an hired servant" (Lev. 25:39 & 40) Does that sound familiar? I think what God did was recall those scriptures that had been put in his mind when he was a little kid.


     The story is told of a soldier who was dying on a distant battlefield. He had been the rebel of the Sunday school class. But before he died, he asked for a piece of paper, and he wrote his Sunday school teacher, "I'm dying a Christian because of you."


     I knew a man who witnessed in adverse circumstances time after time. When I asked him why he persisted, he said, "I believe that God turns on the computer of the human mind when I talk about Jesus, and it goes in there whether they want it to or not!"


     You who are Sunday school teachers, youth workers and parents who are infusing the younger generation with the Word of God are making investments that will go on and on and pay dividends down the road. It might take ten or twenty years, but keep at it! God says that the Word is good seed, and what you sow brings forth thirty, sixty and a hundred fold. (Matt. 1:23) In modern math, that is 3,000 percent, 6,000 percent and 10,000 percent. What a return!


     When the young man plans to tell his father, "Take me back as a hired servant," he is grasping at a straw, but it is a Biblical straw!


     "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called they son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry. For this, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." (Luke 15:20-24)


     The young man did exactly what he said he would do. He got up, went home, and confessed to his father. Can you imagine the joy this father must have felt? His boy was home! It was time for a party!


     You're probably thinking, "I thought this was supposed to be about the un-prodigal son." Here is where we get to that. The prodigal got a robe and a ring and shoes and a steak dinnerbut that was all he got. Going home is good. Staying home is better!


Staying Home

     "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him. Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry" (Luke 15:25-28)


     Now you've got a problem on your hands. The father receives the prodigal joyfully, but the brother receives him hatefully. But would you give the kid a break? He has been in the back field doing double-duty all these years. And now he comes in from a hot, hard day's work and hears all sorts of commotion. It sounds like a party, and there wasn't one on the social calendar as of that morning.


     He calls over a servant and asks, "What's going on here?" "Don't you know? Your kid brother has come home, and there's a big party in the making!" And we expect this older brother to respond positively? "Oh, that's wonderful! I don't give a thought to all those years he was away and the extra work I had to do. I don't even think about all those snide, smart remarks that were said when I went down to the feed mill. 'We hear your brother's shacking up with prostitutes!' I knew they were implying that there was something wrong with our family. But I'm so glad he's home!"


     "And he was angry, and would not go in; therefore came his father out, and entreated him." (Luke 15:28)


     In the midst of the party, the father gets a message that his older boy is really mad and refusing to come in. In my mind's eye, I can picture what the older boy looked like. He is sitting on the back steps with his fists scrunched up in his cheeks so far that his face is misshapen. He is grinding his teeth and muttering, "Boy, wait till I get my hands on him! I'm going to wring his neck!" And his father comes out and says, "What's wrong? Come on in and have a party with us!"  


     "And he, answering, said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this, thy son, was come, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf." (Luke 15:29 & 30)


     A fatted calf was better than a young goat. The animal was kept out of the fields so it wouldn't eat harmful weeds and get sick. It was fed grain for the best meat. It was saved for just the right occasion. Perhaps the brother had his eye on the calf for a special party he was going to hold. Maybe he was getting ready to be married and thought it would make a wonderful wedding dinner. All of a sudden, the fatted calf is gone. The prodigal is home, and the father is lavishing all sorts of love and attention on this scoundrel. The older brother is as mad as he can be! He doesn't even acknowledge the prodigal as his brother. How would you feel? Give him a break!


Actually, he doesn't need a break. Look closely at the father's response. We find that he says two wonderful things to his older boy.


     "Son, thou art ever with me" (Luke 15:31) Isn't that precious? Allow me to flesh it out a bit.


     Perhaps the father said to him, "Son, remember when your brother left? Remember how your mother set the extra plate at the table day after day, week after week, and she would cry and get up in the middle of the meal. 'Where's my baby?' And then she gave up setting the extra place, and the calloused understanding settled in that this was permanent. But we still had you here!


     "Remember when I had my heart attack, and I lay in the bedroom and called you in and said, 'Son, you're all I have left here to run this farm and the family. Take over. You have to run it till I get better.' And you did. You were always here. Doesn't that count for something?


     "And remember when your mom died? I was devastated and thought I couldn't carry on. You encouraged me. Son, think of what it would have done if both of you had left. You've always been here! We've had a good relationship. There are no bad memories!"


     Then the father says something that I have never heard anyone expound on. "and all that I have is thine." Remember what it said back in verse 12? Most of us miss this. "He divided unto them his living." The father divided everything at the time of the falling out, and each boy got his share! What is left belongs to the older son.


     Luke's account of the story is very brief and non-melodramatic. But I think what the father may have done was walk his older son out to a nearby fence as the sun was setting on the Palestine landscape. He put his arm around the boy's shoulders and said, "Son, see those fields? See those flocks and herds? They're much larger now than when your brother left. This is a prosperous farm. We've been able to expand."


     Then he turned around in the diminishing rays of light. "Son, see that house where we're going to have the party? That's your house. I understand that maybe you're going to be married one of these days. This is a worthy place to bring your beloved. Son, that's your house!


     "We're going to go in, and there's going to be a time of jubilation. Your kid brother has a new suit and a ring on his finger and new shoes. There's going to be a delicious steak dinner. But when he goes to bed tonight, he will be sleeping in your house. And when he wakes up tomorrow morning to go to work, he will be working your farm! Do you understand?"


     I imagine the boy thought for a moment soaking it in and then said, "Yes, Dad, I get it. I'm sorry for mouthing off like that. I'll go clean up. I'll come in and we'll have a big party."


     Both brothers enjoyed the celebration that night, but I believe one enjoyed it more than the other. The one who left home enjoyed it, but the one who stayed home enjoyed it more. He had the farmall of itin all of its appreciated value.


     Christians often mistakenly confuse restoration and reward. We can use this passage evangelistically, but we must also give it proper balance. Restoration to fellowship with the Father is beautiful and wonderful, but it is not the same as reward for unbroken faithfulness in that blessed relationship.


     If you are trekking down the path away from home or you have gotten out on the highway and there is still time to turn around and go back, do it! If you are out in a far country and you can get back home and make the best of a bad situation, do it!


     But if you are still at home and perhaps thinking of leaving the center of God's will, stay where you are! Don't leave the Father's productive farm! One of these days, the whole blessed homestead of your endeavor and investment will come back to you with incredible interest.


     Perhaps you have never been part of the Father's family at all. You have never been born into it by spiritual rebirth, you have never eaten the tasty food of the table, never slept sweet rest in the Father's house. Receive Christ now! As the old hymn says, "Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is callingCalling, 'O sinner, come home!'"          

    And maybe we ought to add another verse. "Stay home, stay home, Ye who are restless, stay home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is callingCalling 'O restless, stay home!'"

                Remember, the repentant brother had a party, but the faithful brother owned the farm!
Scripture quotations are from the Scofield Reference Bible King James Version © 1967 Oxford University Press, Inc.
by Rev. David M. Virkler
P.O. Box 10, Towaco, N.J. 07082  *  973-334-9081

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