Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ISSUES OF THE HEART - 5. What is Your Motivation?

“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
A bondservant, on the other hand, was a slave who voluntarily committed to serving his master for the rest of his life, even after he was legally free to leave. He gave up his right to determine the course of his life.

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.

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.

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

    "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" James 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


    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
    • humility,
    • exquisite obedience to God and
    • death to self.
    In 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.

    Like 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.

    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


    1. Hi Audrey, I really enjoyed reading your thorough examination of the prodigal son. You brought so much more to light than I've ever thought about. Thanks for sharing the gift of revelation and knowledge with us.

    2. Thank you for sharing this insightful post. I had never really considered the motive behind the son's return.
      Many blessings to you as you continue to share your knowledge with us.

    3. Very thought provoking article with much to ponder. God bless.

    4. WOW, this sure makes me think.I pray that my motivation is pleasing to God.

    5. I Crystal Mary a Bond servant of the Lord Jesus Christ...
      Will never ever be good enough. But I thank the Lord that through Him, I am redeemed.
      I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can do nothing on my own. For when I am weak, He is strong. It's no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.
      Yes that you wrote makes me think...
      A servant listens and wants to obey, wants to be in favour with his master because it gives him joy to do well.. Our motive therefore must be a willing heart of love. Hug to you. xx

    6. Hi Audrey,

      I must admit that I've had difficulty seeing this perspective you've introduced. I have always viewed this young man as repentant because:
      1. Christ was speaking of repentance (v7 and 10).
      2. The younger son, "...came to his senses" (v17)
      3. The younger son purposes in his heart to confess his sin (v18)
      4. The younger son did not seek or claim the status rights of sonship. (v19)
      5. The father acknowledges to the older son that, "...all that is mine is yours. (v31)

      I understand the point you raise about our motivation, but I don't think I see the younger son in the perspective portrayed in this post.

      I will need to read this several more times in the hope that I can fully appreciate what you express.

      Blessings and peace.


    7. "I give myself away" is my focus on your page this morning. It really speaks to me. Thank you for being here. I was blessed to come last Sunday too. I think it was last Sunday. Memory lapse, just a little one. God bless you.

    8. I love the depth of your post today. I will have to really think on this to see which one I truly am.

    9. My motivation is to daily walk with Christ and do the Father's will. I enjoyed your post. Doylene

    10. Hi Audrey,
      today in the church you find a lot of persons willing to be the bondservant of the "man of God"but their relationship with Christ is not committed,grounded or mature.In terms of service this needs to be differentiated.What God needs from us is relationship, our motives then comes out of this and becomes the reason why and how we serve him.


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