Lost and Found: Danger of Being the “Non-Prodigal”

The “Lost and Found” message had been impressed in my heart since I visited one of my mentors, Heidi, in Canada last month.  One sunny day, we were strolling along the breezy, beautiful streets of Steveston when I realised that my scarf that I double-tied to my bag was lost.   In my husband’s business where the metal toilet paper holder that is double-screwed onto the bathroom wall is stolen, I wondered, “What are the chances that I would find it?” Nevertheless, I quickly retraced our steps and after a few minutes….to my surprised  delight, there I found my scarf lying on the pavement! IMG_4536Heidi then told me that she just recently lost her backpack too when her car got broken into.   Days after, the policeman whom she previously asked to write a certification for her daughter’s girl scout requirements called her up to say that her backpack was turned in at the police station.  The only thing that pointed the policeman back to her was that her bible in her backpack had her name on it! No address, no other information! Awesome!

Our eyes widened as we agreed with each other that “what is lost is found.” I forgot about this story until earlier this week when I routinely looked for my iPad where my YouVersion digital bible is and discovered that it was lost! Not in the car, not at bedside, not in bag, not in kitchen. Hmmm… For the first time, I seriously logged in to iCloud and opened my “Find my iPhone” app only to discover that my iPad couldn’t be traced until it goes online.  I activated the Lost Mode and entered my contact number there.  I changed all my online passwords and prepared myself to never see anymore the iPad with sentimental value that my father-in-law gave me one Christmas.

Then just for the heck of it, I called the restaurant where I dined the day before.

“Meron bang lost and found iPad dyan? (Is there a lost and found iPad there?)

“Meron po” (Yes there is). I was shocked!

“Itim ba?”  (Is it black?)

“Opo” (Yes).  “Kayo po ba yung may-ari” (Are you the owner?)

“Oo” (Yes)

“Nasa vault po namin. Paki unlock na lang po pag claim nyo para alam namin na sa inyo yon” (It’s in our vault. Please unlock it when you claim it so we will know that it’s yours).

It was turned in by an honest waiter named  Christer Gonzales of Max’s Fried Chicken Restaurant, Quezon City, Manila.  In the Philippines where a waiter’s basic salary is usually one third the value of an iPad, I view God’s hand of grace in this. And today I have my iPad back!  What a great encouragement from the Lord that what is lost will be found!

These three incidents within three weeks with the repeated theme of Lost and Found sent me looking up what The Word has to say about this topic.

In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son) to His disciples to illustrate that one sinner who repents will cause much rejoicing in heaven!  Jesus who calls Himself the Good Shepherd  says that it is just normal that the shepherd would leave the ninety-nine sheep (who aren’t lost) so that he could go after the lost sheep until he finds it.

Whether that one sinner (the lost sheep) is ourselves or our loved ones, it is God’s desire that none of us remain lost but that we all have repentant hearts.  If we are part of the ninety-nine “righteous persons who (think we) do not need to repent“, Jesus states that there will be more rejoicing for the one sinner who does repent.

If we are trying to follow the Lord or are saved and feel like the brother of the Lost Son who thinks that he is in such right standing because he did not squander his wealth in wild living and did not ask for his share of the estate, here are some blind spots which we are as likely to miss.

BLIND SPOTS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

1. Pride.  The older brother became angry (v28), maybe envious that celebration was made in honour of the now-found younger brother. This is an easy mistake we can commit too.  Since we did not do the worse sin, the one who did should not be hailed even if he repents.  This is a good reminder for us to anticipate with only joy when prodigals repent.  On the other hand, the Prodigal’s father (representing Jesus) was not suspicious that the return was just for show.  While the lost son was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him, ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him, ordered his servants to bring the best robe to put on the son, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, bring the fattened calf and kill it to have a feast and celebrate (vv20-24).  No half-hearted, arm’s length distance, no conditional performance reviews or interrogations, no background investigations to certify that repentance was genuine.

2.  Hard Heart.  The older brother refused to go in (v 28).  It was manifestation of a hard heart against the repentant brother as he didn’t see why the lost brother should be rewarded with celebration and honour…. After What He Had Done. This is another reminder for us that we keep our hearts merciful, forgiving, and aligned with God’s desire for everyone to repent.  Even if the lost people’s sin hurt us very much.

3. Seeking Recognition and Honor for Self.  The older brother said in verse 29:  ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you...’-  His first word is “Look!”  He wanted to be viewed as the good son.  He wants recognition. Colossians 3:22-23 tells us that “we obey our earthly masters not only… to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord… as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

4. Self-Righteousness.   … and never disobeyed your orders‘   Jesus Himself said that no one is good except God alone. Paul says that all have sinned. The older brother thinks he is all righteous and has no need to repent.  Jesus expresses that there is more rejoicing for the one who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

5.  Selective Sight (Seeing only what one wants to see).  ‘Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.‘ The older brother felt very much oppressed, disadvantaged.  But his father gave him much more than a young goat.  When the Lost Son asked for his share of the estate, the father gave the older brother his own share of the estate.  That was more than enough to buy many goats and celebrate with his friends.

Luke 15:12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

In addition, the older brother also had provision befitting his position and being the son of his father even during the times when the younger brother was in famine and in need (v14), had less than what was considered defiled pig pods (v15), starving to death (v17).

Every time I encountered the Parable of the Lost Son in the past, it was always in the context of God will seek after the lost sheep, encouraging me that if people are rebelling against God, He will seek them until they are found.  Today, I am learning more on my attitudes that displease God when I am like the Older Brother.  This is a healing message for me as I have been intermittently feeling resentment and judging for people who have hurt me.  God goes after this lost sheep(me)’s heart to divide between soul and spirit, judging my thoughts and attitudes of my heart.  Today I am gaining the Father’s perspective to correct my wrong attitudes.

The “Non-Prodigal” is in quotes because to the Lord, all sinful attitudes are rebellion against Him.   The list above consists of sins that make one eligible to be The Prodigal.  The “Non-Prodigal” is just a self-righteous assessment of oneself, falsely thinking that just because the sin one has committed is less, that makes him righteous.  Our standard should not be to compare ourselves with others but with Jesus.  Then we will realise we are not righteous.

2Cor 10:12 Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

Dear Abba Father,

Thank You that You love me enough that You don’t want me to be lost. You want me to have a repentant heart always, aligned with Your heart and Your mind, knowing that You want everyone to be saved and to be repentant, to have mercy and forgiveness for the lost.  Thank You that You are revealing to me the pitfalls of being like the older brother… pride, a hard heart, to seek recognition and honour for self, to be self-righteous, to have selective sight with complaining instead of grateful attitude.  Thank You that You are moulding me to reflect Your character of mercy and love,  forgiveness, humility which even though they are not natural for me, You are faithful to provide by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Thank You that You will leave the ninety-nine and go after the lost sheep until You find that lost sheep… first me then the other sheep.  I already rejoice with You and heaven by faith for the repentance of the lost sheep. Thank You that I can trust You to bring back the lost sheep into the fold. I praise You for Your faithfulness and love in Jesus’s name amen.

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