The Self-Righteous Prodigal

I have preached the parable of the Prodigal Son four times now in my 10 years of preaching. I love the parable and truths we find in Luke 15. Jesus is showing us His grace when it comes to our salvation in all three parables. What made the sermon drastically different this past Sunday was that I finally saw that even the prodigal son, when he returns to the Father, is still suffering under self-righteousness.

All three parables are spoken of against self-righteousness. Remember the Pharisees were grumbling that Jesus had a tendency to eat with tax collectors and sinners. They had made this charge before and He answered them by saying that He was coming for those who were sick and in need of a physician, not to heal those who are well. We know from Romans 3, that the Pharisees are sick as well, but they fail to see their own need of the Physician since they are basing their wellness on their own righteousness and not another.

It is in this context that Jesus gives all three parables in order to make two points. The first point is more obvious and is simply what I stated before, Jesus comes to find that which is lost. It is easy to see the helplessness of the sheep that is lost. The sheep probably is not aware of his own danger until the Shepherd comes, puts the sheep on His shoulders, and carries him back to safety. This is how we are when it comes to being saved. The Shepherd finds us. He rescues us. He doesn’t sit down with us and tell us what we must do in order to get cleaned up, and make ourselves un-lost. He gives us no conditions whatsoever. He just picks us up and rescues us. We are the passive recipients of the salvation He gives to us.

What is not clear is that this is the exact same way salvation comes to the prodigal son. We tend to think that he is making his own decisions about returning to the Father and that he realizes life is better with the Father. But it must be pointed out that when he returns, he is doing so under the pretext of his own conditions. The prodigal son is still seeking the good life and a life away from the trappings of the Father. What he wants it to come back to the Father with terms that will allow him to work, and then go home at the end of the day so he can live life the way he pleases.

Out of His grace and mercy, the Father will have none of it. He grabs the boys, hugs and kisses him, and puts the best robe on him. He brings him back into the household with all the rights and privileges that are found in a home of royalty. The Father will not let him be a servant or a second-class citizen. The prodigal is ushered back into the community on the Father’s conditions, not his own.

The same is true for our salvation. When we are saved, we are not saved on our conditions at all. God doesn’t allow us to remain in our own self-righteousness but rescues out of our demands and gives us so much more. Had the prodigal gotten what he wanted, he would have just been a servant. But the Father poured out His blessing on his son. The same is true for us. When we are redeemed, more than likely, we don’t get what we want. But we do get so much more.

In the process we do die to our self-righteousness. When God’s grace comes pouring out, no longer do we have a right to say what we have done in order to be saved. He saved us completely from the first to the last. All we did was receive the blessing from Him. To boast of anything, before or after our salvation is to boast in our own self-righteousness. If you can learn anything from Luke 15 and following, it is that Christ will have none of it. There is no room for the self-righteous at the cross or in His Kingdom.

The prodigal learned this lesson and we must learn it as well.

Therefore, who are you? Self-righteous son number one or two? Or are you the sheep? Stinky as the sheep is, I’m grateful He didn’t let that get in the way when He rescued me and put me up on His shoulders. Here I sit, I can do no other.

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3 thoughts on “The Self-Righteous Prodigal

  1. I just wanted to tell you that this teaching really opened up my eyes on the subject as well.

    “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ Luke 15:17-19

    The son believed that if went back home and worked that he would be worthy of Sonship again. But like you said, the Father was the only one in position to “worthify” (I made that up lol) the son. Awesome teaching again sir!

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