The Story of the Unloved Father

Luke 15:11-32

Although this story is well known for the son that wanted to leave his father with his inheritance, our focus today will be on the older son.

This older son was seen to be working in the field – this shows that he was responsible and willing to work and labor with his father’s workers. He seemingly didn’t take advantage of his father or the fact that he was the father’s son, so at first glance he seems like a good person.

However, after his prodigal brother came back, we got to see what was in his heart in his comment to his father. He says:

‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

From the older son’s perspective, he was dedicated, sacrificial, and obedient, especially in comparison to his brother. He felt that being this way should have gotten him some kind of reward. He was expecting to trade his good works for something in return, and this lead him to be unhappy.

What about us at ANF?

We have many who are dedicated, sacrificial, and obedient at church. We may see ourselves this way, but are we happy to have these qualities for God? Do we feel we should receive a reward for all of our services? If we have this mentality, then we are just trying to trade with God.

As for the father in the story, he was probably unhappy with his son’s motive. It wouldn’t matter if the older son did a large quantity of services or if he did them with high quality, because ultimately, he is not doing it out of love for his father. He did not understand his father’s heart but was looking to receive something for himself.

In the same way, unless we understand God’s heart, we may become like the older son. We might objectively be great servants of God, but in our hearts, we may be expecting to receive something in return – and this might cause us to be unhappy because that is not the relationship that God wants to have with us.

So lets be aware of our intentions – to see if we are serving God out of love, or out of a selfish motive.

Personal Reflection:

I do not think I have really struggled with wanting something from God, but I can recall many times thinking that I deserved nothing to the point where it can be hard to ask God for anything. And when I think about it, I am not entirely sure why I try to put in good effort when I serve. I do not serve others to receive some kind of reward from them, nor do I do this with God, and I don’t really do it for myself either – and I think this is why it sometimes gets hard for me to consistently put in good effort, because there is no motivational backing for most of it.

It is clear from the sermon that it is right to serve God out of love for him, but it has been a very long time since I “felt” anything towards God, and I think I keep doing my services since it is what I have usually been doing. I have never really sat and thought about why I serve, so it was interesting to come to this conclusion.

Discussion Questions:

What did you feel when you heard the message?

What did you learn from the message?

What do you think is God’s heart?

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