11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The 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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He 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 servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So 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.’ 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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
The picture that Jesus painted of His father was of a God who regrets our rebellion, who runs to us when we return, and who restores us when we repent. But there are some of you who need another message from this parable because you are not the wayward son. Instead like the father you feel the pain because you are the parent or grandparent of a prodigal. Maybe your son or daughter is distant because of a disagreement, or rebellion has created a rift, maybe it’s a sinful lifestyle, regardless of the reason you feel the pain that comes from a break in family fellowship. Some of the deepest hurts and longest lasting wounds we experience in this life can come from family. Family can be ungrateful, unkind, unfaithful and unforgiving. But it’s here in one of Jesus’ most famous parables that we see a story which gives hope to hurting parents. It’s here that we discover what to do when our children grow beyond our control. Rather than try to answer the question, “why do they rebel”, for the reasons are many. I want instead to talk about, what do you do when your children grow beyond your control. There are at least three stages to this story and in the first we see a fight for control. It’s here in verse 12 that we come to a classic confrontation: “Father, give me…” pay attention to the words “give me” these are the root of rebellion. If I could be my own boss, then I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. This is the desire to just do as we please, it’s the my way or the highway mentality. In short the son was fed up with the farm. Now I will say that rebellion is unpredictable, here is a father with two sons who are radically different. Both of them had problems, they just get displayed through different attitudes and actions. What does scripture say to parents of prodigals, what do you do when your kids are legally independent and chose to live a lifestyle that is not only opposite but in opposition to the will of the God? Like the father in the parable you need to make several difficult decisions, starting first by choosing to:
- Focus on the Father not on family failure
We have a Father who understands our pain yet many of us are tempted to sing the song, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” But that’s just not true because not only do we have a God who knows our hurts we also have a God who cares and can console us. He is the suffering father in the parable, the one who experienced the pain of rejection that came as a result of rebellion. Satan wants to tempt us to turn on God and blame Him instead of believe in Him. He wants us to focus on the failure because he knows that we will become bitter and that our bitterness will turn to blame. Some of you are angry with the Almighty because you are blaming God for your family failure. But your child’s rebellion is not a reflection of a lack of God’s love, He is a good good father and he understands your pain. What we need to do is focus on the Fathers care and compassion and pour out our pain to Him because only the father heal our heart hurt. Satan’s subtle trick here is that as long as we blame God our anger will keep us estranged from the One who can restore relationship. Not only do we end up with a rift in our family but also one with our father. It has always amazed me how we will blame God for the bad and take credit for the good. What about you are you focusing on the failure or on the Father? Focusing on the failure leads to continual frustration and often more fighting, but focusing on the Father helps us to see forgiveness. Now as difficult as this first decision is the next for many is the harder one, for its here that second we need to:
- Let them go
Verse 13 says “the younger son set off” and I want you to notice that the father didn’t chase after him. The father responded to the son’s rebellion by releasing him. Part of the goal of parenting is to preparing our kids to leave, and one of the most difficult parts of parenting is knowing when to let go. If your 18 year old young adult came to you with the same request, how would you respond? Would you let them go? What is interesting is that for many money is one of the main ways they try to control their kids. There are plenty of parents today that are trying to bribe behavior. Most parenting today focuses on conforming behavior instead of forming belief. So kids conform as long as there is an incentive, but when the pressure or perk is off they go off. Instead of conforming behavior we need to cultivate belief, because what you believe gets displayed in how you behave. Behavior tries to motivate the head but belief motivates the heart. The problem with money is that it’s a bad motivator of the heart. Money motivation doesn’t just occur with kids, I have watched parents use money even after their kids are married. But notice that the father doesn’t try to use his money to manage the son, you can’t bribed behavior. Now I am sure that the sons request would have seemed foolish to his father, and that he tried to reason with the son but to no avail. This young man was determined to leave for the far country and the facts are that the tighter we hold on and try to control often the more they resist. In our culture today we see letting them go as a lack of love, when in reality it is that is part of the parenting process. Sometimes in our effort to control and manage we make more of a mess. It’s not easy to let go especially when we see the potential problems in their plans, but we need to remember they belong to the God and He is a faithful Father.