Are you Rebellious or Religious?

October 16, 2012

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The parable of the Prodigal Son(READ IT HERE) profiles two men and their loving father. The rebellious son is often the focus, but this is actually the story of two prodigal sons, one rebellious and the other religious.

The setting unfolds when the younger son asks for his inheritance which would have been 1/3 of the estate, with the greater portion going to the older son. This was the ultimate insult. The son was wishing the father dead.

After receiving it, he went and squandered it through sinful living. We all know the point of the story comes as the son comes crawling back home penniless.

The forgiving father responds to him by running to him, embracing the rebel, and throwing a party for his son had returned.

We often focus on the father or the renegade son, but what of the “faithful” son. How do you think the older son responded to his father spending his inheritance for the party celebrating the return of his brother?

He surely realizes what is happening! He refuses to come to the party and insists his father come to him. Look at the disrespectful way in which he speaks to his father.

“but he answered his father, ‘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. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30)

The older son is angry and addresses his father in a dishonoring way which was unthinkable in this day and age. He highlights all the good works he has done through the years, never disobeying.

Both sons were lost. One in rebellion, the other in religion.

Many of us identify with the sinful younger brother, but the rule keeping older brother is also one we can relate to. The audience Jesus spoke to contained both rebellious people(tax collectors and sinners) as well as religious(Pharisees)(Luke 15:1).

Mark Driscoll preaches a great message on this asking, “Are you rebellious or religious?” It is obvious the error of the younger son, but the sin of the older brother is equally insidious.

Religious older brothers seek control, often obeying in order to receive what they feel they deserve. They live as a slave to the rules, rather than a son walking in a loving relationship with the father.

We could also ask, are you a slave or a son?

Tim Keller expounds on this passage in his book The Prodigal God. He speaks of repentance as a two-fold exercise. We must seek forgiveness for the bad things we do (younger brother), but also the good things we do for the wrong reasons (older brother).

The sin of a rebellious person is obvious. As we grow in Christ, we must guard against allowing the pendulum of our lives to swing and begin sinning in a different way, that of religion.

This really is the parable of the Prodigal Son(s) – one caught in immorality, the other in legalism.

How about you? Are you rebellious or religious? Are you a son(or daughter) or a slave?


Listen to my message on this which was given in Poulsbo, Washington.

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God