11 He also said: "A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.' So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I'll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.' 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 "But the father told his slaves, 'Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let's celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' So they began to celebrate. 25 "Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 'Your brother is here,' he told him, 'and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' 28 "Then he became angry and didn't want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, 'Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.' 31 " 'Son,' he said to him, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" — Luke 15:11-32
A Gracious Father is a Picture of our Heavenly Father
by Jason Dukes
My dad's name is Jimmy. He has been a preacher since he was 18. He is now 74. He embodies the heart of our Heavenly Father as an earthly father to my brother Erik and me. Loving. Gracious. Forgiving. Generous. Accessible. Kind. Wise. Tender. Fierce. Intentional. Redemptive. Restorative. Did I mention gracious?
Although my dad is my favorite preacher, I never felt preached to or preached at. With all the weight of leadership and the pressure of image that preachers typically carry, I never heard him apologize for the mistakes of his kids.
Over the years I heard him preach some amazing sermons, but none was more captivating than the one he preached on Luke 15:11-32. I heard him preach that message again not too long ago. As a dad myself now, it hit me more profoundly than ever before why my dad is such a gracious father. It’s because he has come to know and to be grateful for the grace of our Heavenly Father. In fact, he seems to remind himself of it every day.
When Dad preaches on “The Story of Two Prodigals” (and I call it that because, like Tim Keller, I believe there are two prodigal sons in the story), he breaks the message into two parts. I wish you could see it, because the visuals he uses are significant.
After reading the text and praying, Dad pretends to be the son who wandered and wasted. He steps off to the left of the stage and begins with the statement, "My daddy gave me this coat. My daddy gave me this ring. My daddy gave me these shoes. And I don't deserve any of them." He is wearing his most colorful sport coat, his gaudiest ring, and his shiniest shoes.
He goes on to explain that all he had been wearing before was tattered and torn. He had forsaken his daddy's wisdom, taken for granted his daddy's generosity, and tainted his daddy's reputation. Yet after coming to his senses and returning home, he is welcomed by his daddy before he even got to the front porch of the house. "Daddy threw a party for me. Welcomed me back into the family like I had never left. Why would Daddy do that?"
He then steps over behind the podium and off to the right of the stage, this time pretending to be the son who stayed yet wandered. "My daddy gave him a coat. My daddy gave him a ring. My daddy gave him new shoes. He even cooked his best BBQ for him. And my little brother didn't deserve any of it. Not like I do!" He is angry. Prideful. Resentful. Full of contempt. Like someone who had slaved for a master and had never been appreciated.
And he lets his daddy know his feelings. "Don't you know all I have done? You never killed a goat for me! And I never left home like my little brother did." The daddy's reply stings. "Son, you are always with me. Everything I have is yours. You may not have left. You may have, in your mind, done all you thought I expected. But what you didn't understand was that I wanted you to live with me, not for me.”
The older brother goes on to conclude, "Daddy threw a party for him. Welcomed him back into the family like he had never left. Why would Daddy do that?" And the message leaves us to ponder the graciousness of our Heavenly Father from the perspective of both the self-indulgent prodigal and the self-righteous prodigal.
For all of us—but specifically dads—may we remind ourselves daily of how gracious our Daddy is, and may we embody His grace to others. Especially to our kids.
- Do you condemn yourself, even though Jesus does not condemn you?
- Do you condemn your kids on a regular basis, even though you know how much grace and how much forgiveness and how many do-overs you yourself have been given?
- Understanding that there are times when we must exhibit tough love to an unrepentant wanderer, recognizing that the younger son had to "come to his senses," how is a gracious love different than an enabling kindness? When is it appropriate to extend that kind of gracious love?
- Are you a self-righteous prodigal? How do you view our culture around us? Are you compelled to embody grace within the culture, or are you prideful to condemn? How will you rethink what God thinks of you, and therefore renew how you think of others?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.