Parables of Lost Things (Luke 15:25-32)

Parables of Lost Things - Luke 15:25-31


1.      Luke 15 is one of the great chapters in the Bible, containing three of the most well known stories told by Jesus—the story of the lost sheep in vv.3-7, the story of the lost coin in vv.8-10, and the story of the lost sons in vv.11-32.  In this study we are going to focus on just the last part of the third story in this great chapter.

2.      The key to understanding Luke 15 is found in the first two verses of this chapter.  In those verses we are introduced to two distinctly different groups of people. 

·         In verse 1 we meet “the tax-gatherers and the sinners” who were flocking to Jesus because of His message of mercy and grace.

·         In verse 2 we meet “the Pharisees and the scribes” who criticized Jesus for associating with people they considered to be immoral, unworthy, unclean, and of no value.

3.      In the wonderful story at the end of Luke 15 of the father who had two sons, both of whom were lost to him, we see both groups—“the tax-gatherers and the sinners” and “the Pharisees and the scribes”—portrayed.  There is word for both of those groups in this great story.

·         The younger son, the one who left home, represents “the tax-gatherers and sinners” introduced in verse 1.  Those people had obviously strayed away from God.  They had fallen into sins of the flesh which were apparent for all to see.  The son who left home and returned to be received by his father is a reminder that God does not reject such people when they turn to Him.

·         The older son, the who stayed home, represents “the Pharisees and the scribes” introduced in verse 2.  These self-righteous religious people failed to understand that there is another type of sin in addition to sins of the flesh.  While “the Pharisees and the scribes” may have carefully avoided the outward sins of the flesh, they were infected with sins of the spirit.  The older brother in this story reminds us that in the eyes of God, sins of the spirit are as reprehensible to God as sins of the flesh.  I want to direct your attention to the part of this story that deals with the older brother.  (text – Luke 15:25-32)


T.S. – If you were asked to make a list of the worst sins a person could commit, what would be on your list?  Of course, the worst sin of all is the sin, the only sin for which there is no forgiveness, is rejecting God’s self-revelation in Christ.  But other than that, what would you list as the worst sins?  If you are like most people, you list would include things like murder, stealing, sexual immorality, lying, cheating.  If those are the kinds of things you would list, you can be sure that Jesus would disagree.  While never condoning sins of the flesh, Jesus recognized that sins of the spirit are just as, if not more, reprehensible in the eyes of God.  From the example of the older brother in this story, I want to point out to you some sins of the spirit about which we need constantly to be on guard.  These sins of the spirit are expressed in our attitude about self, God, and others.


I.    We need to be on guard against pride which is demonstrated primarily in our attitude toward ourselves.

1.   Many theologians view pride as the root of all other human sin.  And there is evidence in the Bible that God sees it that way too.  For example, in Proverbs 6 is a list of seven things said to be an abomination to God.  The very first thing on the list is word which essentially means pride.

2.      Root meaning of word "pride" is to lift up or exalt oneself.  Pride was motivation for very first sin.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God because wanted exalt selves to level of God.  The serpent promised them if ate of forbidden fruit, they would be like God.  And every person since Adam and Eve has struggled with temptation of exalting self, of lifting self up over others.

3.      That is what the older brother in this story did.  He obviously viewed himself as being far superior to his younger brother.  After all, he had not made the kind of mistakes his younger brother made.  He had not demanded his share of the family inheritance, left home, and wasted his money in immoral living. And he was angry that his brother, who had done all those things, was welcomed home with party.

4.      The words of the older brother in vv.29‑30 reek with attitude of pride.  Notice the repeated use of personal pronouns in his statement.  Five times in one sentence the older brother says “I” “me” or “my.”  Listen to his words:  "...for so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have  never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has  devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him..."

4.      Can't you just hear the attitude of pride/superiority in his words?  While he gladly points out the sin of his brother, there is no mention whatsoever of his own sin.  No  mention—

·         That he was totally insensitive to the feelings of his father concerning the return of lost son

·         That he had been harboring anger and bitterness and resentment in his heart toward his younger brother

His pride had blinded him to his faults and magnified the faults of others, even to the point that he found fault with his father for welcoming home his lost son.

5.   And that is one thing pride does to us.  It invariably causes us to magnify the faults of others and to minimize our own faults. That’s the point of that ridiculously exaggerated illustration Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount about the person trying to remove speck of dust from another person’s eye but not noticing the large beam sticking out of his own eye.  Pride puffs us up.  It makes us self-centered.  It causes us to be blind to our own faults and shortcomings.  And we must constantly be on guard against it.


II.  We need to be on guard against living a grim life of “joylessness” which is demonstrated primarily in our attitude toward God.

1.      However else we may describe the older son in story, we certainly cannot describe him as living a joyful life.  His statement in verse 29, “...for so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours...” indicates to me that he did the right things with the wrong motive.  He served and obeyed, not so much because he loved the father, but because it was expected of him.  It was the thing he was supposed to do, and so he gritted his teeth and did it.

2.      Here was a man who had the privilege of living every day in the presence of his father, and yet he found no joy in that.  His life was characterized by they joyless existence of dull monotony.

3.      Helmut Thielicke, the German theologian, wrote a wonderful sermon based on the life of the older son in this story.  Here is one thing he said in that sermon:  “...the worst thing that can happen to our Christianity is to let it become a thing taken for granted, which we wear around every day, just as the older brother wore, and wore out, his existence in the father’s house as he would wear an old, tattered shirt.  The marvel of God’s gracious act upon our life never really dawns upon us unless we render thanks to him every day.  Only the man who gives thanks retains the wonder of God’s fatherly love in his thoughts.  But one who has this wonder in his thoughts keeps the very spring and freshness of his Christianity.  He holds on daily and nightly, to a living joy in his Lord and Saviour.  He knows that all this is not mere ideas and habits, but life, and fullness, and joy.”  [The Waiting Father, p.35]

4.      We must never forget that God calls us to life and fullness and joy, and not merely grim existence.  We should have about us a sense of wonder and excitement because we live every moment in the very presence of our Heavenly Father.

5.      Earlier this week Carol and I took our youngest grandchild, Heath, Christmas shopping.  He is 4 years old and his enthusiasm for life is amazing.  Every time he sees us his first statement is, “Mimi & Pa, I have missed you so much!”  And he always says that as if he has not seen us in years. 

6.      And that is how God wants us to live each day in relation to Him.  We should exclaim every day, “Father, I’ve missed you so much.  It is a joy to live in your presence.”  We need constantly to guard ourselves against a grim life of joylessness.


III. We need to be on guard against a critical spirit which is demonstrated primarily in our attitude toward others.

1.      Having an attitude of pride in relation to ourselves and grim joylessness in relation to God, inevitably leads to negative, bitter, critical spirit toward others.  That is apparently what happened to the older brother.  You can be sure this wasn't the first time he had criticized the younger brother.  More than likely that was pattern of his life.  As matter fact, some Bible scholars contend that it may have been negative carping of older brother that caused younger son to leave home in first place.  Maybe the younger son just became fed up with the constant critical attitude of his older brother.  The day finally came when he said, "That's it! I've had it! I won't stay another moment in this house!" and he took his inheritance and left.

2.      Have you ever been around person who is impossible to please?  That is certainly not pleasant place to be.

--they never see the positive, only the negative...

--they never see the opportunity, only the problems...

--to them the clouds never have a silver lining...

--to them the glass is always half empty, never half full...

They are always...

--expecting the worst...

--constantly predicting doom and gloom...

--unhappy about something or someone...

--negative and critical...

1.      Exactly how Pharisees, to whom story was originally directed, were.  All they could do was grumble and complain that Jesus was associating with sinful people.  They refused allow themselves see any good in what He was doing.

2.      Want you know that kind of spirit is poison for in life of an individual and poison in life of a family, and poison in the life of a church.  Nothing will destroy the witness of a Christian, the harmony of a home, or the fellowship of a church faster than for people be characterized by negativism and criticism.  We need to be on guard against that kind of spirit.


1.      The way Jesus chose to end this story is intriguing.  He does not tell us how the older son responded to the pleadings of the father.  Did he make an attitude adjustment and go into the house, make peace with his brother, and join the celebration?  Or did he stay outside, a pouting, bitter, tragic figure? 

2.      It's almost as if Jesus leaves the story for us to finish for ourselves.  And in doing that, He may well have been saying to us, "The choice is yours.  You can live a limited restricted life dominated by an attitude of—

·         Pride toward yourself

·         Grim, joylessness toward God

·         Criticism toward others

      Or you can reject the path of pride, joylessness, and criticism and choose to find rich, full, abundant life in relationship with the Father.

3.      And as we make that choice, we would do well to remember that sins of the spirit (as seen in life of the older brother) are just as reprehensible to God as sins of the flesh (as seen in life of younger brother).