Keller's outline, my sermon.
Give Me Mine!
The third parable in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is a story about a family—a father, an older son, and a younger son. The story begins when the younger son comes to the father and says, “Give me my share of the estate.” In ancient times, when the father died, the oldest son always got “a double portion” compared to the other children. Here, there are two sons, so the older would get two-thirds of the estate and the younger one-third. The story begins with the younger son asking for his share NOW.
1. A stunning request sets the story into motion. 15:11-12.
a. The younger son’s request was stunning, because the inheritance, of course, was not divided up and distributed to the children until the father died. As Kenneth Bailey writes: “In Middle Eastern culture, to ask for the inheritance while the Father is alive, is to wish him dead.”
i. The request would therefore have been a disgrace to the family name, because of the younger son’s extraordinary disrespect for his father. The father would have been expected to slap the impertinent son and send him packing.
ii. It would have also been a blow to the economic standing of the family, since the father would have to sell part of his estate in order to give him his share. In short, this request ripped the family apart. It was a relational and economic act of violence against the family’s integrity.
iii. It would have damaged the soul of the father: “assets” translates “bios” livelihood, or life. The LIFE of the father had to be divided!
b. Why would the younger son make such a request?
i. In his Confessions, Augustine gives us a theory of why we do what we do, and especially why we sin. He makes this startling observation: “A man has murdered another man—what was his motive? Either he desired his wife or his property or else he would steal to support himself; or else he was afraid of losing something to him; or else, having been injured, he was burning to be revenged.”2 Augustine goes on to say that even a murderer murders because he loves something. He loves romance or wealth or his reputation or something else too much, inordinately, more than God, and that is why he murders. Our hearts are distorted by “disordered loves.” We love, rest our hearts in, and look to things to give us the joy and meaning that only the Lord can give.
ii. The younger son LOVED HIS FATHER’s Things, rather than his father. Keller…His heart was set on the wealth and on the comfort, freedom and status that wealth brings. His father was just a means to an end. Now, however, his patience was over. He knew that the request would be like a knife in his father’s heart, but he obviously didn’t care.
iii. The two sons look very different, Yet at the end,
1. the older son is furious with the father and humiliates him by refusing to go into the great feast.
2. This is the older son’s way of saying that he will not live in the same family with the younger son.
3. So again the family’s integrity and the father’s heart are under assault—this time by the elder brother.
a. The elder brother objects to the expense of what the father is doing, as we will see.
b. He shows that he has been obeying the father to get his things, and not because he loves him, since he is willing to put him to shame. Both the older and younger sons love the father’s things, but not the father.
2. The father’s response to the request is shocking vv.12b, 20-24.
a. The younger’s son request to the father would have shocked Jesus’ listeners, but the father’s response is even more remarkable. This was a patriarchal society, in which you were required to show deference and reverence toward those older or above you. This kind of contempt and insolence would have ordinarily met with outrage.
i. The listeners would expect the father to explode in wrath, to drive the son out with blows.
ii. Instead, we read the simple words, “so he divided his property between them.” We need to put ourselves into the historical context. In those days, most of a family’s wealth was in their land and property. Indeed, their family land was part of their very identity. It is likely that the father had to sell some of his land in order to become “liquid” and give his younger son his share.
1. This is reflected in the unusual Greek word used in verse 12 translated as “property.” It is the word “bios” which means “life.” It says, literally, he divided his “life” between them. Why use that word? Probably it was a way to convey what it felt like for the father to lose his land, his family’s good name and status, and the presence of one of his two sons. The father is being asked to tear his very life apart—and he does.
2. The older son and anyone else in the community would have thought that the father was being foolish to give in to the younger son’s request. But looking back, we know better. If the father had become embittered, and had perhaps beaten the young man or done something else severe to him, no restoration would have ever happened. The father’s heart would have been too hardened to ever receive him back, and the son may never have expected or wanted the father to do so.
3. By bearing the agony and pain of the son’s sin himself, instead of taking revenge, instead of paying the son back by inflicting pain on him, the father kept the door open in the relationship. The father was willing to suffer for the sin of the child, so that some day reconciliation would be possible.
3. The painful generosity of the father turned into a disaster.
a. The younger son took all he was given and left.
i. He left the family.
ii. He left the region.
iii. He left the faith.
b. The younger son left his family broken in order to buy a new family.
i. Lots of cash flowing, lots of friends.
ii. When the money’s gone, his friends were gone as well.
Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
iii. Loss of money and friends reduces him to poverty…
1. Spent all he had.
2. A severe famine developed in the region.
3. He “attached himself” to a citizen in the far country…
a. Fed his livestock: swine, a humiliation for a son of Israel.
b. Hungry enough to long for the hog’s food.
Luke 15:14–16 ““Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need. “And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. “And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.”
iv. He showed signs of repentance.
1. “When he came to his senses…”
2. He concocted a plan to return to his father.
3. His plan included a
a. CONFESSION of SIN AGAINST HEAVEN AND
b. IN HIS FATHER’S SIGHT.
c. A Confession that he was no longer worthy of family membership.
d. An intension to repay what he had wasted by his work.
Luke 15:17–19 ““But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’”
4. He did NOT understand forgiveness and grace.
a. I will pay you back.
b. I will not expect to be treated as a son.
c. Humility, confession, restitution, but
d. grace neither assumed nor expected.
4. The disaster is transformed into delight.
a. The father is discovered awaiting the return of the son.
b. The father sees the returning son, recognizes him, and runs to him. Nouwen: “Parable of the Running Father.”
i. Children ran, women ran,
ii. Everyone ran to the father.
iii. but the head of the clan WOULD NOT RUN.
5. So what?
a. We recognize ourselves in these self-concerned obsessions.
i. We, too, find ourselves impulsively self-expressive; our culture is built around…
1. self-actualization, becoming all we can be for our own sake.
2. Possessing the latest and the best.
3. Full of Augustine’s “inordinate love” for things other than God.
ii. Recognize these things for what they are. Do you see them in your own heart and life? Once we see these things for what they are, what can be done about them?
b. We recognize Jesus in the story in that our Lord has done for us what the father in the parable did for his son.
i. When God came into this world, we would have expected him to come in wrath, to appear and drive us out with blows. But he did not. He didn’t come with a sword in his hand, but with nails in his hands. He didn’t come to bring judgment, but to bear our judgment.
ii. Jesus went to the cross in weakness, and there, voluntarily, his life was literally torn apart. And for his only property left, his garment, they cast lots. But he did it so that, when we repent, like the younger son, forgiveness and reconciliation is now available.
iii. And how does this help us with our “disordered loves”?
1. Objectively, it means there is real, true forgiveness for them. Our guilt is dealt with by Jesus’ blood.
2. Subjectively, when we see the absolute beauty of what Jesus has done for us, it captures our hearts.
a. Money can’t die for us, popularity can’t die for us.
b. There is nothing more beautiful in all of reality than the picture of a perfectly happy Being, leaving all the bliss of heaven, and sacrificing everything for the sake of rebellious, undeserving, ungrateful people.
c. The more you look at Jesus doing that, the more you will love him above anyone or anything else. He will capture your heart so that nothing matters more than he does. When you see what he’s done for you, it makes the worst times bearable and the best times leave-able.
3. This story is about the dissolution of a family. Two assaults put the family under attack. The first comes from the younger brother, the second from the older brother.
a. The first assault is on the dignity of the father.
b. The second assault is on the financial stability of the family.
c. The third assault is on the family’s status in the area.
d. The next set of assaults comes from the elder brother, which we will carefully study next week.
4. Jesus, though, was not on a quest to raise the flag for families in the first century. Underlying the story of a broken family, Jesus is answering the question “who belongs to our community?”
a. Idolatry, preferring the father’s things to the Father, destroys community.
b. We might think, “I’m not a younger brother, I’m here!”
c. When “love”, power, money, status comes available, you check out. That tells me I am a younger brother.