Note: This is #7 in a series of posts. If you have not read the Foreword to the series, I hope you will do that first: Foreward
Luke 15:16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When I was a young teenager I used to go camping in the woods behind my house. There was about 20 miles of it and so my friends and I would take some provisions with us and take off for 2 or three days. I would have a knapsack and a shot gun and some shells and normally I would pack a few can goods, like soups or beans etc. And we would hike for several hours to this place or that. And then towards evening we would make camp. In those days all I had was a handmade hammock and I’d place a cap over my face to keep off the mosquitos. We would make a fire and boil our soup and be pretty well tired enough to go to sleep.
One day I had the bright idea that instead of lugging around these heavy cans of food, why not take dry things and mix them with water; like macaroni and cheese or pancake mix. And so we did the next time. My sister loaded us up in our old 1940 Plymouth and dumped us off at Rock Springs about 30 miles away. We were not allowed to camp in the park but we went far enough away as to be out of the park but close enough to be able to swim in the crystal-clear river and swing from the Tarzan style ropes and we had a great time.
This time however, I had managed to get an army jungle hammock with a tent type roof over it and insect netting. I was first class, especially as compared to two new boys we brought along with us who made a lean— to out of small oaks and palm leaves.
Well, it rained that night, Florida style. And all the straw and all the wood were soaked through and through. And when we tried to make a fire for our pancake mix and bacon, we simply couldn’t do it. I tried, and so did the other 4 boys. The batter was all mixed, the bacon was on the frying pan and we were hungry—really hungry. We had hiked all the previous day, and swam, and jumped from one rope to another Tarzan style. And we were really starved. And the batter and raw bacon began to look good. Really good! And so I ate some of it. And boy was I glad when my sister picked us up that afternoon!
I had the chance to stay at home and wake up in my own bed and eat one of those fabulous Saturday morning breakfasts that my mother would have made for me. Pancakes, or waffles or bacon or sausage and eggs— and by the way… cooked to perfection! Toast and coffee! And most of all, the chance to be there with my mother and my sister. It didn’t seem like a big thing to me then, but now it does. Now every one of those boys have gone their own way. I have tried for my part to stay in touch with them, but then didn’t keep up on their part. And as far as I know, they are still alive. But not so my mother and my sister. I had swapped one for the other. And who would have ever thought an American young boy would be grateful for a spoonful of pancake batter and a couple of strips of raw bacon?
Who would have? Well, the younger son in our parable would have understood that quite well. He could have told us, in one of our own expressions; “Been there; done that!” “I had the chance to stay at home with my father. He was a wealthy farmer and there was always plenty of good things to eat. Why, even his hired hands had bread enough and to spare. That literally means they had so much money that their needs were all provided for and they had enough left over to share with others. But instead, what did I do? I exchanged the comfort and the security of living at home for being on my own. I exchanged the customs and the traditions of my elders for the new and exotic ways of the distant country. I exchanged the 10 Commandments for a riotous life of doing what I pleased, when I pleased for as long as I pleased. I exchanged a good and meaningful relationship with a girl from my own synagogue for those prettied up and fake dance hall girls. I put myself, first, last and foremost. I sowed to the flesh and I reaped a whirlwind.
Jesus gives us this parable in picture language. But how would it look if we made it spiritual? How about just swapping the words “Bread enough and to spare” for “Peace of mind” or “The peace which passes all understanding.”?
How about instead of coming home to the father and asking to be taken in as a hired servant, instead to hear Jesus invite us back with these words, “Come unto me, all you that are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”?
Or we could keep it on the physical level. The father’s hired hands had bread enough and to spare. And what does the Bible say about our physical wellbeing? “My God is able to supply all your needs!”
What about this verse, “Give and it shall be given back to you, good measure, shaken and running over shall be poured into your lap.” Or how about this one, “ Bring the full tithe into the storehouse and see if I do not open up the windows of heaven and pour upon you an over flowing blessing, one you can scarcely begin to contain.”
How many people have I dealt with that choose to live in that distant city of taking care of one’s self first and then suffer because they find that they don’t have the wherewithal to exist on their own by their own resources? I am talking about those who use public worship time to get things done instead of giving God His first hour and asking for His help to make the other hours run smoothly. I am talking about those who are in financial need and can’t consider tithing and then wonder why everything seems to happen to them to where they can’t get by on what they have. Jesus said, “Whatever you give up for the Kingdom’s sake will be returned to you 100 fold, here in this life and then in the time to come, eternal life.” How is it that we think we can believe in Jesus for our soul’s sake but we can’t trust Him for our life and body’s sake? Whatever you give up, time, talent and treasures will be returned to you 100-fold in this life…” I believe “whatever” means whatever. I don’t have a doctor’s degree in theology, but I believe in what the Word says!
I had at least one person who was angry with me because I told him (or her) that if he (she) would be in church on Sundays, these other things would get done in due time. I had another person who likewise believes if he (or she) doesn’t take care of number one first, then nobody else will. And that includes skipping church and not even sending a dime as an offering. Now he (or she) is wondering how body and soul will be held together.
Beloved, one thing this parable teaches us and that is, when you are down and out and there is no one to help you and no one to even give you a little pigs slop, then there still is God! When you are flat on your back, you have to look up, and that is to God.
And that is what the son did. He was down and out, starving and alienated from these alien people, and he remembered that back at his father’s house, there was indeed all that he needed. Now the father is God. And the Father’s house is the church. And finally, he went there and was received and was even given a party.
Proposition for you Christians: Stay away from the distant cities and say with David, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord!” Amen.
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