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News for Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
May 4: Hope Personified
By Alec Cort
senior pastor, Bethel, Greenbrier

Focal Passage: Luke 15:11-32

When we think of the parable of the prodigal son, how often do we realize that it is actually a story of two sons? In Jesus’ time the Greek work “ousia” which we translate as assets refers to the portion of inheritance the younger son would receive at the death of his father. The law of primogeniture said the eldest son would receive a double portion and all younger siblings would divide what was left. Distribution of assets rarely preceded the patriarch’s death.

Scholars have referred to the parable of the prodigal in Luke 15:11-24 as a “gospel within the gospel” because it is a story that fills some with hope but deeply offends others. The younger son was going against the grain by even asking for his share while his Dad was living. What is most unusual is that his dad agreed. Did he not know that the son would make poor choices and squander the money? 

My wife and I have three children by choice. We knew before they were born that they would have a free will. We knew that they’d exercise that freedom to choose wrongly at times. So why did we have them? Simply put, we wanted to love them and be loved by them. We trust God that they will learn from their mistakes and grow in knowledge of what is right. 

Who among us has not been the prodigal at some point in his/her life? We have all abandoned a loving heavenly Father out of desire to be masters of our own destiny. We viewed God as a cosmic killjoy when His ways hindered our self indulgence. We wanted free of His authority to do as we saw fit. This grieves God but He allows it. He knows that sin will take us further than we want to go, keep us longer than we want to stay, and cost us more than we want to pay. He also knows that we won’t learn this unless we experience it. Should our children stray from the truth, as the prodigal did, it is our prayer that they’ll “come to their senses” (Luke 15:17) and return wiser and more willing to accept our love and instruction. 

Just as any parent with wayward children waits for them to come around so God waits for us. Unsatisfied with sin, the prodigal realized he had wasted His father’s blessing, realized that things were better when he was with his dad, returned home, and confessed his sin. Boy was his dad glad to see him (Luke 15:20)! What a beautiful picture of salvation. He let’s us go because He made us free. He waits for us to return. When we do return with penitent hearts He embraces and forgives us. We are wiser for our experience and endeavor never to leave Him again. 

What about the other son? The one who obeyed his father and never squandered his inheritance? He wasn’t lost was he? The older son is lost because he thinks he’s not. He begrudges the grace his father shows to his younger brother. He believes his father “owes” him a double portion of gratitude since he’s been more obedient than the prodigal. Jesus’ disdain for the self righteous and their failure to show compassion for sinners is no secret. He would not have us look down our noses at sinners or blot out their salvation. He would not have us condescend to them because of their mistakes. He gave the sinners of His day hope they never received from their religious leaders — the hope of transformation. We follow His example when we lead people to understand that our Heavenly Father waits with open arms for all who will repent and come home (Romans 8:1). 

— Cort is senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Greenbrier.

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