Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“The Prodigal’s New Clothes”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Prodigal’s New Clothes”
For the week of May 29 – June 4, 2011
One day, a young man named Tony went out to the store to purchase an iPad, the average cost of which is approximately $500.  At the close of the transaction, Tony gained an iPad but had $500 less in his pocket.  Consequently, he will not be able to purchase other things with that $500, as the money is no longer his.  You see, in order to gain something of value, Tony had to incur a loss; to him, the gain of the iPad was worth the loss of the money.  If he thought the $500 was worth more than the iPad, he would have kept the money. 
Every day we make decisions based on what we think is of value.  So, we trade what we think is worth losing to gain what we think is more important.  A parent goes out to work and trades in time, skill and effort for money.  The time spent at work is time he cannot give to his spouse and children; with the money he receives, he purchases food, clothing, shelter and other necessities.  To gain money he loses time, to gain food and shelter he loses money.  The idea is: to gain, you must lose. And, in each choice we make, there are losses and gains.
The question is this:  will the gain be worth the loss?  Scripture says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25, 26).  What is the worth, or value of a soul? 
Jesus spoke many parables to teach us His Father’s values.  Let us look at the parable of the Prodigal Son from the perspective of what each character stood to lose or gain.  It should lead to a closer examination of our own values. We need to see if they are in alignment with God’s values.  
In the beginning of the story, the youngest son requests his inheritance so he can leave his father’s home to go out and live as he pleases.  With sadness, the father obliges (Luke 15: 11 – 14).  What did the youngest son hope to gain from his request? He wanted the resources to enjoy a perceived freedom from the restrictions of his father.  To him, this freedom was more valuable than his elder brother’s companionship, and even his father’s shelter and protection.  
Sadly, the younger son was unaware of his greatest loss. He did not understand and value His father’s love.  In contrast, the father not only lost his goods, he lost a son.  To him, the latter is the greater loss.  Now the elder brother sustained two losses -- he lost his brother and he lost a part of his inheritance.  What we discover later on in the parable is that from the elder brother’s perspective, his greatest loss was not his brother, but his inheritance.  
In the second part of the story the younger son loses everything, and finds an abominable job earning very little.  He decides to return home to beg his father for forgiveness. He is willing to work as his father’s employee.  As far as the younger son was concerned, he would gain food and shelter while his father would gain an employee.  However, when the father saw the younger son on the road approaching home, the father ran to his son and lovingly embraced him, promptly restoring his son to his old place in the family (Luke 15: 15-24).  The Father regained his son.  If there was a loss it did not matter because, the regaining of his son overshadowed it.  The younger son gained more than he anticipated. He received grace, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  The greatest gain was experiencing his father’s love.
In the third part of the story, the eldest son reproaches the father for receiving his brother (Luke 15:25-31).  In his eyes, re-gaining a brother means losing more of the father’s inheritance.  To the eldest son, nothing matters more than his inheritance. It is more important than his brother.  As far as he was concerned, he stood to gain nothing by the return of his wayward sibling.  Sadly, the elder brother was unaware of his greatest loss:  that of not really experiencing his father’s love. 
Do we know our Heavenly Father’s love?  Maybe if we understood what He lost in order to gain us, we would better understand His love.  How much has the Father given for us? Our Father loved us so much that He was willing to pay far more than we were intrinsically worth.  Our Father stood to lose everything to gain us. 
When Adam and Eve sinned, the Father lost both this earth and His Son.  Because God so loved the world, He agreed in the councils of Heaven to allow Christ to come and save them if they sinned (John 3:16); thus, the Son was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The decision was made that Jesus would die eternally so we could live eternally with Him.  If He succeeded in His mission then the Father would regain that which was lost.   
However, if He should fail, the stakes would be higher -- all would be lost.  Either way, there would be a loss.  When Abraham demonstrated that he was willing to lose his son Isaac in order to gain Christ, the Lord swore by Himself that … “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (cf. Genesis 22:15 – 18).
In swearing by Himself, the Lord placed Himself as a guarantor, and as surety.  He placed everything on the line.  If the plan failed, God would forfeit everything.  By this act of love, God demonstrated that He would rather die than to live without us.  The Lord places that much value in us. 
How much do we value such love?  If we esteem Christ, we will respond as Paul did in Philippians 3:7-10:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
May we accept the principle of giving up all in order to gain the souls of others!

-- Raul Diaz