Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Plan a Funeral?…No Throw a Party!

When the wicked thrive, so does sin. But the righteous shall see their
downfall. Proverbs 29:16

…when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. Proverbs 11:10

Do you plan a funeral or throw a party? It seems that scriptures show that at some point the wicked “get what’s coming to them” and crash and burn (no pun intended). If that is a reason to rejoice, why don’t I feel like breaking out the party hats? Perhaps, someone would hint, “because you are not righteous”.

Au contraire mon ami, but I am. If this sounds like an outrageous claim, keep reading. You’ll learn why I believe I can make this statement.

Luke 15:11-32, a portion of scripture that is familiar to many people, is the parable of the Prodigal Son. This well known story of restoration showcases a father’s unrelenting love for his wayward son. It is also an example of the righteous seeing the downfall of the wicked and rejoicing.

In a nutshell, there is a man who has two sons. At some point the younger boy decides that life at home is a drag and approaches his father and asks for his inheritance. Most people are discreet enough to wait for their benefactor to die, but this youth was too impatient. Note to any children reading this post…don’t try this at home.

Surprisingly, the father agrees to his son’s request. He turns over about 1/3 of his net worth to the boy (his share based on the premise that there were only two sons). It was not unusual for a father to release some of an inheritance before dying, but not the entire portion. With his new found wealth in hand, the son heads off into the sunset and becomes that generation’s Bill Gates based on his entrepreneurial prowness….NOT! He heads straight to Partyville. Life is good, plenty of friends and fun. But then, the unexpected happens…a “black swan” event occurs. The country where he resides experiences a famine. His friends and his money dry up and wither away. His option, 
if he wants to survive is, get a job.

This made me wonder. Was the young man always someone who avoided work
and now had no marketable skills to offer? Or, had the high life reduced him into someone an employer considered unreliable and undesirable? The only job he found was feeding swine. Adding insult to injury, the pigs were fed food that was better than what he had to eat. Finally, one day, the light bulb came on, he came to his senses and he repented.

Uh oh, she used the “R” word. If the hairs on the back of your neck just stuck straight out, and your blood pressure skyrocketed, I understand. I used to hate  that word. “Repent” brought up images of a preacher in a three piece suit, with big hair, a beet red face, slinging sweat and pointing his index finger at the “heathens” (and in some cases the heathen Christians) and screaming; “Repent,  or you’re going to hell.” That approach always made me run, not to the altar or God, but as far away as possible.

To many, the word repent has very negative connotations and this is unfortunate. In biblical terms to repent means, to change one’s mind or to think differently. Graham Cooke, a favorite speaker of mine, would say; “Have another thought.” It also means to change one’s mind for the better. Put another way…come up to a higher level of thinking.

That is exactly what the young man did. He remembered life at his father’s  house. The workers always had enough food and plenty to spare. Compared to his present situation, going home and working as one of his father’s hired hands would be a vast improvement. He had no expectations of being reinstated to his former status as a son; he was coming back as a laborer. Life at dad’s house was looking much better than it ever had before.

While he was gone, his father watched, waited, and hoped for the boy’s  return. One day, on the horizon, off in the distance, the father saw a familiar form. Filled with compassion, he raced to his son, embraced him and kissed him. I doubt the boy expected this type of a reception. He reacted by apologizing, admitting his wrong and asking for a second chance; not as a member of the family, but as a worker. His father would have none of this. He had the servants bring clean clothes and sandals. He then gave the son the signet ring. This was not only a sign of the father’s restored confidence in his son, but also, an affirmation that the boy was his son. The father was not interested in lamenting over the past or wallowing in regret over what could have been. “Kill the fattened calf”, he cried, “it’s party time!”

The father immediately reinstated the boy to his former status as a son. He did not 
put him on probation or evaluate his performance for a period of time.  As far as the father was concerned, the past (or the wicked phase of the son’s life) had perished. The father’s actions covered the son’s past mistakes and made him right (or righteous) with the family. This was a reason to celebrate and rejoice, not mourn.

Scripture says that when a sinner repents, the angels rejoice. There is a party
atmosphere in heaven. God has no reason to celebrate when one of his children slips into hell. He will never see them again. The separation is permanent and irrevocable, but He must let them go there if that is their choice. When a sinner does repent, God does what the father in the parable did. He covers that person with His robes of righteousness and gives the penitent a place back in the family of God. From God’s perspective the old is gone, the wicked has perished and now He, the Righteous One, and the angelic hosts of Heaven rejoice, for His child is back home.

Romans 5:17 states that there is a gift of righteousness that we can receive from God. I gladly accepted God’s offer. This is how I can say that I am righteous. It is not based on anything I have done, it is pure grace from God. The father in the parable gave the son full restitution of his status and right standing in the family, not based on anything the boy did, but totally on the will and grace of the father.

When I look back on my life I can see where so much of the person I once was is 
now gone, and good riddance. I am by no mean perfect, and I know that I could be much further along if I would have been more cooperative with the Spirit of God working in my life. That being said,  when I look back at who I once was and what He has transformed me into….plan a funeral?….no way,  let’s have a party.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! Let's party!!! I loved this article. And Mary, I just have to say, you crack me up with the way you put some of the writing in your blog. Down to earth, yet inspiring and funny.