Jesus and Custom Tailored Shirts
I guess something is not lost if you know where it is. But, when I read the famous story Jesus told about a lost son, I know where he is in the story; I know where he is living and what he is doing. I also know where he is in relation to his family. So, why is he lost? Let's look at it. I think we'll experience something delightful.
To begin our journey, let's ask, "Why is Jesus telling this story?" This was after all, a made-up story used to feature a truth about God's love. Luke 15:1-2 states, "Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!" There it is. Categories of people. We have the ugly part of society namely - tax collectors and notorious sinners (well known and ill-famed.) Jesus is teaching, helping others grow and changing lives by the love of God. Tax collectors and sinners are complaining. So, how does Jesus respond to their complaining - by telling three stories? First, He talks about a lost sheep. Second, He talks about a lost coin. Third, He talks about a lost son. The first two illustrate heaven's celebration when a sinner is found, that is, they are restored to a proper relationship with God. The third story about the lost son is unique from the other two. It's longer. It’s more detailed. It does not end in the same way. The lost son story does not tell us about heaven rejoicing over the lost son coming home, but that there is a celebration because a dead son is now an alive son.
Remember who Jesus is talking to. He's talking to the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law. He was using a story that violated their rules and offended them. Not only that, He was using this story to go beyond heaven's response to lost sons and daughters coming home. Also, He was using this story to illustrate the prideful, arrogant and selfish position of the older brother. The older brother represents the Pharisees and religious leaders. The younger brother represents the tax collectors and notorious sinners. Jesus is telling this story to remind us that it's the humble, meek and lowly who the Father runs after. He is also telling the religious leaders that they have access to the riches of a relationship with God, but their attitude, beliefs and perspectives have limited them in their own thinking to that of an obedient son who does not know how to live in intimacy with God, because of the blindness brought on by duty and obligation.
I have a favorite shirt. It's a simple, black dress shirt that is custom tailored. Since it's custom tailored, I watch my weight more closely, so that the shirt will fit. When I consider my "bought off the rack" shirts, I don't have the same value and priority. The custom shirt was made to fit a certain physique - my physique. The "off the rack" shirt, albeit a nice shirt, is designed to fit the average man. While they may look the same when hung up, when I put them on, they do not fit the same. Now, even if I know where my favorite custom tailored shirt is, if I use it to clean my shower, dust my furniture or wipe my hands after making a meal, my custom tailored shirt is lost. It's not physically lost, but it's lost because it's not fulfilling its customized purpose. This is how I view the "lostness" of the son in Luke 15. The son was lost, not because we don't know where he is, but because he is not where he is supposed to be.
This is an aspect of what Jesus is telling all of us. You may not think you are lost and I may know where you are, but when you believe lies about yourself and about others which limits your ability to see the goodness of Jesus in them, and hinders their ability to be and do what they are custom tailored to do, then in that regard they are lost. We are found when we come home to God. We are ALSO found when we step back into the seat of sonship. It's a custom tailored position for you. Don't settle for "off the rack" religion. Jesus has something more special for you.