I believe we’ve been mislabeling the parable about the father and his two sons for centuries (See Luke 15:11-32). Our Bibles usually call it the parable of the lost son (or the prodigal son). Of course, these titles in our Bible are not inspired Scripture and, in this case, neither is really what the story is ultimately about.
This parable is about the father. We only view from the lost son’s perspective because we see it through our orphan-hearted lens.
I’ve written a lot about this parable in the past, and I wrote about the spiritual orphan mindset last week. Today, I would like to continue where I left off but with a different focus.
Jesus is really telling us about His Father and our Father in this tale. He’s describing His Father’s heart toward our orphan heart, which is our tendency to want to live disconnected from Him. We do this either through rebellion or religion, which are two sides to the same coin.
Neither one values a life constantly and consciously held in the Father’s embrace.
And truly understanding this parable should motivate us to embrace this life we’ve been invited into, for the whole point of the story is about what we’re missing out on when we either run away from or never avail ourselves to what we have in Him right now. We find this point succinctly stated by the father here (bold-type added)…
“And he said to him,
‘Son, you are always with me,
and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31 NKJV)
Two things for us to see in this verse.
First, we should see that we always have the Father with us. This means that there will never be a time when we will ever be alone again. For He has permanently made His home in us (John 14:23). There’s never a moment where this life with our Father is not fully available to us.
Secondly, all that the Father has is ours. And that’s a lot! It’s always has been ours as His sons and daughters. We just don’t really believe it, which is why we end up living as though separated, depending on our own limitations.
The rebellious brother gave up “trying” to be a son, letting go to foolishly indulge his misguided passions in counterfeit pleasures that he saw as forbidden fruit. The religious elder brother never let go of anything, keeping his passions in check but never availing himself to the infinite treasure before him.
Neither one was experiencing the life that was always freely available to them.
But we will read this parable as a call for the “prodigals” to come to Jesus. We focus so much on getting people into the family of God that we often miss the point of living His life in the family of God–in this fellowship between the Father and the Son that we have available to us now.
John evidently saw this point (John 17:21-24; 1 John 1:3-4). And if we don’t, we will end up turning prodigals into elder brothers.
Then this father continues telling the elder son something we should all see…
“It was right that we should make merry and be glad,
for your brother was dead and is alive again,
and was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:32)
Why didn’t the religious elder brother see this as an occasion to celebrate? He didn’t because he saw his duty as serving his father more than being in a loving relationship with him. He didn’t see the value of family and intimacy.
This religious orphan heart focuses more on serving God so that they feel like they deserve what they get from Him. This is because, at a deep heart level, they hate grace. Therefore, they get angry when they see the rebellious orphans who shouldn’t deserve grace getting bucket loads of it from our gracious heavenly Papa.
This is the language of a grace-hating religious orphan (bold-type added)…
“‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you;
I never transgressed your commandment at any time;
and yet you never gave me…” (Luke 15:29 NKJV)
But the grace-hating, self-righteous language of a rebellious orphan is the same…
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:19 NKJV)
We need to see that both brothers wasted what was theirs. They were missing out on the life they could’ve had with their father as fully-affirmed sons, having everything their Father possessed and, more importantly, the Father himself. In fact, this is Jesus’ point here (bold-type added)…
“But seek the kingdom of God,
and all these things shall be added to you.
“Do not fear, little flock,
for it is your Father’s good pleasure
to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:31-32 NKJV)
Do you see it? Don’t keep living in fear, as though separated and limited to fending for yourself. Everything you’ve ever needed, ever longed for, automatically comes as more than enough to those who have learned to live life in our heavenly Father’s embrace.
One last point. The earthly life of Jesus is what it looks like to be well Fathered. What a life looks like lived in this Father’s embrace.
“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long,
and yet you have not known Me, Philip?
He who has seen Me has seen the Father;
so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9-10 NKJV)
Child of God, this same Father lives in you. You know this, right? And Jesus sent you the same way the Father sent Him (John 20:21). We are meant to abide in His love as He abides in the Father’s love (John 15:9-10).
So it’s foolish to think we can pursue the life Jesus calls us to and not live the life in the Father that Jesus lived.
Do you see that the two are inseparably linked?
Living like an orphan means living separated from the Father’s endless supply and separated from His boundless grace. It’s living like a slave instead of son. You’re left to fend for yourself, by the limitations of your own resources, longing for love but only finding its broken counterfeit. It’s never quite measuring up to some mysterious angst embedded deeply and darkly in your soul.
It’s a life without Father. And, sadly, many blood-bought children of God live this life of separation every day.
I know, because I did so for over 25 years of my Christian experience. I went from living like the prodigal to being the religious elder brother.
Since then I have learned to embrace His life as a son, though I’m still working through many of these orphan fears.
But I do finally know what it’s like to be Fathered.
Beloved, your heavenly Father wants to father you. He wants to fully affirm you as His son/daughter, to learn what it’s like to live as a royal heir, learning how He conducts the affairs of His Kingdom here on the earth. He wants you to live out your moments with Him, to share His secrets with you, and teach you how to receive everything you will ever need from Him. He wants you to know His love and how to reciprocate it with a fully engaged heart…until you see with His eyes, hear with His ears and respond to this world with His heart.
Yes, it’s all about life with Father.