“But when he came to himself, he said,‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him,“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
Luke 15: 17-19
It seems as if this young prodigal son had finally learned his lesson, doesn’t it? He had wasted all of his inheritance. There was an economic recession caused by widespread famine, and as he pondered his dire situation he decided to go back to his father. But did he really have a change of heart?
The issue at hand is his motivation for returning home. Did he miss the fellowship of his brother and his father? Did he realize his folly and regret asking for his inheritance ahead of time? Did he want to make amends for the heartache he caused?
Jesus’ parable doesn’t indicate that any of the above possibilities is true. This young man’s own words show that he was motivated by one thing – his desperation to end his crisis. His belly was empty. He could find nothing to eat, and he knew that at home there was plenty to be had. So he decided to return to his father in order to have his need met.
Notice also that he planned to ask his father to make him a hired servant. This is a key point, and shows the son's true intentions. You see, there were two different kinds of servants - a hired servant and a bondservant.
A hired servant was someone who worked for pay and was not obligated to the boss beyond the performance of his job. In today’s time he would be like a day laborer or a temporary employee. There was not necessarily a close relationship between the boss and the servant, nor was there a long term commitment.
The hired servant’s reward was his salary which he could use as he pleased. His life was his own. His boss could not intervene. In short, the hired servant performed a task, and the boss paid for services rendered.
|Master piercing bondservant's ear|
But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. Exodus 21:5,6
This ceremony sealed the covenant between the master and the servant. It signified that the bondservant was not going anywhere, would be permanently attached to his master and would become a member of his household.
The very act of piercing the bondservant's ear was a testimony of the relationship between him and his master. It indicated the bondservant's submission and trust in his master, and it showed the master's responsibility for the bondservant's wellbeing.
Unlike the hired servant, the bondservant was not paid. The basis for the relationship was simple….love. The bondservant’s first words were, “I love my master…” However, because of his relationship with his master he had access to things in his master's household that the hired servants didn't.
IT'S ABOUT MOTIVE
In asking his father to make him a hired servant this young prodigal was requesting to be received back, but on his terms. This was not about love for his father or true repentance for his errant ways. It was simply a means to an end. He needed a solution to his current crisis.
BONDED OR HIRED?The word “bondservant” is used several times in the New Testament. At the beginning of each of their epistles the following men identified themselves as bondservants to Jesus Christ – not hired servants.
"Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi" Philippians 1:1
"Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 1:1
"Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ…" Jude 1:1
JESUS - THE ULTIMATE BONDSERVANT
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8
Notice that we are told to have the same mind of Christ. It is a mind of
- exquisite obedience to God and
- death to self.
MODERN DAY HIRED SERVANTSIn many pulpits today the focus is on what you can get from the Lord. In other words, what will your payday be like. Especially at the beginning of the year many ministers spout empty promises to desperate people with itching ears.
Sweeping declarations are made like “this is your year for breakthrough!”, or “this is your year of abundant blessings!”.
Often a person must do something to ensure the blessings and breakthrough are received…... give a "love" offering, purchase a product, attend a conference. The motive is the same – perform a task supposedly to appease God so that you can guarantee your payday and avert a crisis.
MODERN DAY BONDSERVANTSLike Paul and the other New Testament writers, modern day bondservants have distinctive characteristics.
|An awl used to pierce a bondservant's ear|
- Their lives are not their own, but they have been bought with a price.
- They are motivated by love for the Master, not a desire to have their felt needs met.
- They are willing to obey God and do whatever He desires, go wherever He sends them.
- They understand that their success is not determined by material wealth or their personal comfort level.
- They trust the Master for their provision and protection.
- They are prepared to endure persecution.
- Their aim is to be more like their Master.
We don’t know if this prodigal son eventually had a change of heart. But Jesus said that we can know all people by the “fruit” they bear in their words and actions. Time will always tell what the true motivation of a person is.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION?
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION?
If a book were to be written about you, which of the following two opening statements would more accurately describe you?
- ____________________ (your name) a hired servant who professed Christ
- ____________________ (your name) a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ