“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ – Luke 15:17-19
Today we will study a few verses out of Luke 15, and pull apart what they mean for the believer. We will study the necessity of coming to yourself, how the Father treats those in His care, the state of the unsaved, our worthiness before God, and finally His response to our returning home.
“But when he came to himself…”
We begin with a necessary step into redemption – coming to yourself. It is a full truth that to recognize the value of Christ, we must see our desperate need of Him. Who would shower who thinks themselves clean? Who would rush to see a doctor if they believe they are healthy? Who needs a Savior if they haven’t sinned?
All of us were – or are – in the state of the prodigal son. We left our Father, insulted Him, and went our own way. I’m writing this about me, and I’m writing this about you. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
We must come to ourselves to rightly come to Christ. Sinner, wake up from your slumber! See your condition. The destroyer is at the gate for the slaughter, and you sit with the fattened pigs. Your sin is great, but it will never outweigh the mercy of our Christ Jesus. Open your eyes – come to yourself. If you are outside of Christ, you sit in the city of destruction, as we all once did.
“How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread…”
In stark contrast; those who are under the Father’s care are well provided for. Their needs are covered by His abundant wealth – sin and debt are paid. The thirst of those in His house is satisfied by living water (John 4:13-14), their hunger forever overcome by the bread of life (John 6:35).
It is a wonderful thing to be under the care of Him who holds the universe in His hand, and governs it perfectly. No earthly riches could compare, no earthly riches will last (Matthew 6:19-20).
“… but I perish here with hunger!”
They who are without Christ have a hunger that will never be satisfied outside of salvation. It is the great toil of mankind to seek for happiness. Our empty stomach groans all the more desperately as we discover the true worthlessness of earthly pleasures that were meant to fill us.
After the wife, after the children, after the successful career and large paycheck, after the fame, after the cars and vacations, after the social media posts and likes and follows – there is a looming void. None of these things are bad in themselves, but none of these things will be enough to please our soul’s appetite. Only the Father can do that with the Heavenly riches that are in His hands, and these are reserved for His children that have come to themselves and returned home.
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
In coming to yourself, a key aspect of right thinking is to recognize the absolute unworthiness of yourself. If you think you deserve Heaven, you have not come to yourself. We gave up our rights to live in the Father’s house long ago when we participated in cosmic mutiny.
Nor can we ever hope to earn ourselves a room, never mind a place at the family table. The house is reserved for those who come to themselves in humility, and return for mercy and forgiveness. The door is shut to the ones who will try to earn their way back home.
This may be a difficult concept for some people with painful pasts. All too often we come from dysfunctional families who make it clear that they expect us to prove our worthiness to them. It is not so with God.
The Father does not owe anyone a room in His house – yet He freely gives one to whoever will come. He is not obligated to save anyone, yet will never turn a soul away (John 6:37).
“Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
The humility of the son is met with loving kisses, familial clothing, and a return party from the Father. It was never a relational possibility for the Father to regard his returning son as a “servant.” This does not mean we never serve the Father – we are still faithful to carry out His will. Children do the will of His parents. The still-imperfect older brother shows us an example of a child of the Father still working for his Father (Luke 15:25).
But those who return home are more than mere servants to the LORD. Those who are justified and cleansed by Jesus Christ are adopted as family. We are given a new name, new nature, and a new life.
Those who once sat in the mud with the pigs can return home without fear of retribution, and sleep in safety tonight. It is through the blood of Christ paying for our sins on the cross that the debt of those who trust, believe and confess is paid. Come to yourself, flee to the Father along the path of Christ. He is ready to greet His children home with open arms – full of love, mercy and grace.