This morning, we live in a very consumer-driven world. People use up and/or waste resources faster and faster with each passing day. One of the hallmarks of previous generations was conservatism and making resources stretch as far as they possibly could. Throwing food away was frowned upon (after all, most of it was grown personally and therefore appreciated). New things were a rarity and luxury rather than commonplace. Today, people have trended greatly in the opposite direction to the point that most of my generation do not have the experience of saving and conserving, which has led to a lot of the recent debt problems in individual families. One of the most comforting things to the child of God, though, is that our Father has an endless supply of grace and mercy, which are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Our study verse is found in the midst of a story most commonly referred to as the “Prodigal Son.” In actuality, this account tells the story of “prodigal sons,” but that is a discussion for another time. What is interesting about this story is how much theological confusion people are able to draw out of it. For example, some have used this story to teach that God’s children ALWAYS come back to the right way (the Father’s house) before they die. Such a broad and absolute thought should not be derived from this story as the Bible abounds with accounts of God’s children languishing and eventually dying apart from the blessings and comforts of the right way: Lot being a good example from Genesis 19. Another theological problem that sometimes arises from people’s application of this lesson is that it is possible to waste and ruin our inheritance that our Father laid up for us.
According to Peter’s account of our inheritance, there will not be anything to tarnish it as it is “reserved in heaven for you.” (I Peter 1:4) So, if our inheritance that Christ purchased for us with His own blood cannot be spoiled but will remain incorruptible and reserved for us, what does the study verse before us show? What is interesting about our verse is that the language does not even mention an inheritance in it. People will infer it from the father’s action of giving his son his goods, but the lesson actually teaches something profoundly different with a fresh warning for us today.
Later in the story, the son returns home, and the father mercifully clothes him, feeds him, and gives him all the care of a son of the house. From the description of a robe, ring, fatted calf, etc. we see that this son’s inheritance from his father was very much intact. So, what did the father give him and he subsequently lose? What the father divided to him was his “living” from the portion of goods in the house. The father did not give him his inheritance to waste but a living that was ruined in riotous living. Even his brother understood that concept as he mentions that his younger brother wasted the father’s living. (Verse 30)
Friends, though we cannot ruin or spoil the vast richness and beauty that affords us in that great world to come, there is a lot of ruin that we can bring upon ourselves here in this life. It equates to squandering our Father’s living that He has graciously provided to us. What is our living? We understand from Scripture that life, breath, and being come from and belong to Him. (Acts 17:28) People today talk about having “one life to live” and “every day being a gift.” While these statements are true, they generally have their focus misaligned. They use clichés like this to encourage people to not have regrets but live a life fulfilling all their desires and realize accomplishments that they want to attain. That is exactly the mindset of this prodigal son when he wanted to leave and “do his own thing.” He wanted to experience all that his heart ached for out in the big bright world.
Truly, our lives are not our own as we are bought with a price. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) Therefore, our “living” is a portion of life and health that God has granted us so that we might live quiet and peaceable lives to His honour and service. In other words, we should remain at and in the Father’s house using His living to bring pleasure to Him rather than ourselves. Most of the time, we take our living for granted until it is gone. Much like the prodigal son, we forget the richness of the Father’s bounty until we are completely impoverished. We fail to appreciate good health until we have completely wrecked it due to a riotous lifestyle. Possessions are glanced over until they are lost, and family is something that we pine for once their presence is removed from us.
The sadness of today’s world is seeing so many prodigals wasting their substance and living that was graciously bestowed by the Father unto them. Talents from His hand are wasted. Service opportunities are squandered. Most of all, worship (part of our living) is neglected today greater than ever before. The harlots and enchantments of the world have lured away the great portion of God’s children, and sadly, some today are in the pigpens of life without yet realizing where the salve for their situation resides. The Father’s house beats out the world in every way. Though formalized church is considered antiquated by modern standards, it is still the place of much feasting and rejoicing.
When the son returned home, he saw and experienced that his inheritance was still intact. Can you imagine? After all I have done, my father still has my inheritance waiting for me. What a joy of spirit must have burst out! When sin-sick and sorrow-laden children of God are blessed to come back to the Father’s house, it is always a joy to see the repentant sinner experience the realization that no matter how “used up” their living was, heaven still awaits. We see heaven brighter and feel its breeze sweeter in the Father’s house. Sometimes it seems like the sights, sounds, and smells of Paradise are just a step away when the Father’s house is raised up above the valleys of life. As the glorious declaration comes, “What is lost has now been found!” the soul reaches out by faith to almost taste the droppings of heaven’s honey!
Though this lesson shows that our inheritance can never be lost, it brings to clear sight that we can absolutely lose all the living of our Father in this life. His love for us abides, and His smile and embrace will be found if we turn from our wicked ways and repent. However, we do not have to experience the hog barn to know that it is bad for us. We do not need to experience like Solomon all the vanity of life to realize how vexing it can be. If we are content to dwell at home in the Father’s house, consider how the living will be! The Father will never tell us, “You are spending too much time at home. Experience what is out there. In fact, I need some ‘Me Time’ so go ahead and sow your wild oats.” The Father’s pleasure smiles upon those that obediently enjoy His living in His house. May we put our life, breath, being, talents, service, and single-focused worship (our living and portion of goods) where it belongs: His House with His presence.