Third Sunday After Pentecost: The Stupid Choices Of The Prodigal Son
In Today's Gospel readings we read, Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:...”
In the midst of the Pharisees and Scribes murmuring and grumbling Jesus tells one parable with three stories in the parable. Now the Church, in its wisdom, stopped after the first two stories in the parable. One, being the story of the lost sheep, and two, being the story of the lost coin. But let me include the third story as well, which was the story of the Prodigal Son. Now today's sermon will be focusing mainly on the the Prodigal Son and the stupid choices he made. But before I turn our attention on him, let me turn our attention on the Gospel readings for today:
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured...
What were they murmuring about?
“This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
When we consider Luke’s words in this verse, we learn what the “religious leaders” thought about “publicans and sinners” gathering themselves to Jesus. Rather than seeing this as an opportunity for them to be “saved”, the “religious ones” only criticized and complained. It is understood that because Jesus “ate” with them, in their culture, He was identifying and becoming “one” with them. This was “reprehensible” to the “religious leaders” who were onlookers, and they castigated Jesus for it.
Instead of murmuring, they should have been rejoicing. And it is toward this issue that Jesus begins his parable.
In the first story of the lost sheep, instead of grumbling, it says that the man who lost his sheep, “when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, REJOICING.” He rejoiced he did not mumble. He even, “calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘REJOICE with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” Jesus added that instead of grumbling, “there will be more JOY in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
In the second story of the lost coin, instead of grumbling, it says that the woman who lost the coin, “calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘REJOICE with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” She did not grumble. She did not complain, She did not murmur. She and her friends rejoiced. Again, Jesus added that “there is JOY before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” not murmuring, not grumbling, but rejoicing.
And in case the Pharisees and Scribes did not get the point, Jesus tells them one more story. The story of the prodigal son. In that story, we see the Father telling the elder son, who was grumbling about all the fuss over the prodigal son, that “It was fitting to CELLABRATE and be GLAD”
There was an English clergyman of the 1700's. Who was considered a rather spiffy dresser. One Sunday morning he wore a bow tie that had long ribbons that hung downward. After the sermon was over, a lady walked up to him and said, "Preacher, are you open to some criticism?" He said, "I guess so. What would you like to criticize?" She said, "The ribbons on your tie are entirely too long and inappropriate for a man of God." And she took out her scissors and cut them off.
A hush fell over the people standing there as the clergymen calmly asked, "Now may I borrow the scissors for a moment?" As she handed them to him, he said, "Ma'am, are you open to some criticism?" She answered, "Well, I suppose I am." He said, "All right then, please stick out your tongue."
Murmuring is usually a symptomatic of a real spiritual problem.
And the Lord says "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:14-15 and in I Corinthians 10:10, the Lord says, We must not “grumble, as some of them [ancient Israelites] did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”
Now lets turn a corner here and talk about the The Stupid Choices of the Prodigal.
Often as I read a story something grabs my attention that I have never noticed before. Such was the case as I was reading a post about this familiar passage. It is interesting to see the full circle which the son took. He made several choices which we often mistakenly roll into one. After reading the story carefully I realize that each decision was specific in and of itself. Let me share with you the choices he made.
1. He chose possessions
He said to the father give me what is coming to me. Did he somehow think that that would bring him the elusive happiness. Did he think that possessions would satisfy the craving in his heart?
2. He chose the far country.
Once he realized that having possessions did not bring him satisfaction he decided that maybe he needed a change of location. So, he took the possessions and went to another location hoping to find what was missing in his life. Many people think they'll find what they're looking for in a different place.
3. He chose riotous living.
There is no indication that his intention was to live a riotous life. But perhaps once he realized there was no happiness in the possessions and no happiness in the far country, he thought maybe he could find happiness in the riotous living. This is not usually the first choice, but one which comes when we still find ourselves unhappy.
4. He chose to join himself to a person.
When everything else failed he decided that maybe a person is the answer. It does not say that he purposely enslaved himself. It says he joined himself. It is entirely possible that he went to that person with false illusions. In fact, perhaps the man made promises to him that he never intended to fulfill. Whatever the case, the young man must have believed that something good was going to happen, but he soon discovered that people are not the answer to happiness either.
5. He chose addiction.
Look carefully at what the Bible says, "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat." The word fain means, "gladly." He chose to partake in the very depths of sin. He even pretended to like it. Think of a person who is in a crack house, and you will understand what he was like. As bad as it was, he craved it. At the bottom of sin is addiction, and that is where he was.
6. He chose dependence.
When a person has come to the very end of choices, their last choice is to ask others to meet their needs. Somehow we believe that someone will care enough to give us what we so desperately need, but they seldom do.
So, we see six distinct choices he made. Then, and only then..."he came to himself,” and when he did...
He chose his father. Every choice he made was one that drove him further and further from his father, but when all else failed he chose the one he had left in the beginning. Most of us are very much like the prodigal. We choose things. We choose a different place. We choose a different lifestyle. We choose to join ourselves to people. We choose addiction and finally we choose dependence on others. Then, when it is all said and done, we finally realize that we are living the most miserable of lives. One day this young man woke up in a place where he never dreamed he would be. It was then, he came to himself. Oh that he would have come to himself before he made those choices. Yet, sadly, it is often only after we finally have discovered that these choices cannot satisfy that we come back to the only one who can--our Heavenly Father.