TD Jakes — What Matters Most?
Jesus preached a lot of great stuff, all parables, told stories. He was masterful at it. The one I'm using today is probably the most famous, and as I minister it, you don't even have to be a church person. You could have been just hopped down off a pole, grandma dragged you to church this morning, and still you heard of the prodigal son. "A certain man had two sons," Jesus says, "and the younger of them said" And youth is always rebellious and angry. That's what youth is. It's energy without experience. "So the younger of them said unto them, 'Give me my stuff. I know how to do this better than you know how to do it. I'm gonna show you how you ought to do this. Give me the portion of goods that falleth unto me. I want control.'"
And the Bible said he divided unto them, so even the one who didn't say anything got his, too. He divided unto them his living. Now as the father gave the younger his portion, and the older, his brother, portion, the younger, once he got control, ran away with it, and the older held his at home. Now the younger didn't run away in the sense of sneaking out the window, but sometimes getting control will drive you into stuff. It's about power. Who said that? It's about power. I used to think it was about money, 'cause I went by the way the old people preached it, you know?
It was kinda like a rags-to-riches story. This boy was rich either way. He was rich at home. He was rich when he left. It wasn't about rags to riches. He was after power. He didn't ask for the money so he could get stuff. He already had stuff. He had servants and everything at home. What he wanted was power, and power is a sexy thing. Good Lord. I'm telling you power wear negligées. Power will wink at you. Power is so sexy that we fight in families for it. Men had it so long that the women looked at it and said, "Ooh, it is sexy. Give it to me". You'll get it when you get up. And then the kids looked at the parents and said, "No, it's mine".
Everybody wants power, control. The younger got control, power, too fast, went out there and didn't know what mattered most. He thought that the gift was better than the giver. So he took the gift from the giver, left the giver, and took the gift, never realizing that the giver is always better than the gift. So he said, "Give me your stuff," and any time anybody gives you their stuff, always know that they are better than their stuff. Any time somebody gives you their stuff, always know that they are better than their stuff, because they are the ones who got the stuff, so they gotta be better than the stuff they got.
And any time you get their stuff, you are getting the least expression of the source that gave it. "I got his money". He made the money. That's why when you run out of money, you're gonna be broke, because the one who made it can make it again. So if you get what they made and you don't get the one who made it, you will run out of it 'cause you got the gift, but you didn't get the giver, and you can't do what they did to get it. Now you gotta sue 'em again. So the giver is always better than the gift. But the boy didn't know what mattered most, so he said, "Give me the gift," ran away from the giver, and then ran out of the gift. And then when he ran out of the gift, he finally recognized that he didn't know what mattered most. He got it wrong.
Have you ever got it wrong? Hold your hand up if you've ever got it wrong. You got it wrong. Made a dumb decision, didn't know how to prioritize the thing, ran away with the gift, walked away from the giver, didn't know what mattered most and thought you were right when you were doing it. Here's the caution: and thought you were right when you were doing it. If you ever thought you were right, and you were wrong when you were doing it, how can you be so confident now that you're right? How can you be so rigid that you don't leave yourself just a crack for the slight possibility that you might not be the end-all, sum total of wisdom?
So there he is in the hog pen, and he spent all of the gift, and he's away from the giver, and hard times give you a chance to think. I'm gonna say that again: hard times give you a chance to think. Tears does something for your brain, to alleviate pressure, so the blood can flow, so you can think straight. And he said, "Hmm, this didn't turn out so good". Now I respect this boy, because you have to be wise to be able to admit to yourself, "This didn't turn out so good".
Some people are so stubborn that they will never critique their behavior enough to say, "This didn't turn out so good". Those people scare me to death, because people who will not critique themselves and insist that they are right, even when all hell breaks loose, are the most dangerous people in the world, because they are more concerned about ego than they are overcoming. And they insist on holding up the ego, even while they know inside, "I lost something in this". They will never humble themselves. They will never change because image is more important to them than reality.
I like this dude, because when push came to shove, he evaluated himself. He did the math. He said, "How many servants at my father's house have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger". In other words, he said, "This is better than that". And he says, "I need to go back and do this over. I gotta get back on track again". Lost and found. And over and over and over again in your life you will go through things where you do right, and then you do wrong, and then you look at it and say, "Wait a minute. This is better than that. I should have done this over here". And if you have the sense to fix it up when you have fooled it up, you can always survive anything. Go back to the beginning and start again.
So now he's trying to get found again. How many have been found again more than once? Found again more than once. Look at your life. Look back over your life and look at how many times you ended up in a hog pen financially, physically, emotionally, maritally, professionally, health-wise, and you had to say, "Wait a minute. This isn't going the way I want it to go. I gotta go back and fix it". When we start thanking God, we have to thank God for allowing us to go back and fix it in our health, in our body, in our home, in our mind, in our finances. I just love people who will go back and fix it. You can fix it. I don't mean you can fix people. You can fix it.
He said, "I'm gonna go back and fix it". I'm not healthy. I can fix it. I'm not happy. I can fix it. I'm not strong. I can fix it. I can't read. I can fix. There are so many things that people live with that could be fixed. Why would you build a house in the hog pen? When something in your gut says, "They may belong here, the pigs, but I don't. I am out of my element". The boy says, "I am out of my element. I'm going home". He goes home. The father, if he be like most fathers, should have had an attitude, "You brought this on yourself. You've been acting like a fool. I told you before you left it didn't make no sense. Now you're out there running around with them prostitutes and spent all your money. You embarrassed the family. You're gonna come back home? You think you're gonna get some bread? Where is the money I gave you before"?
Oh, it would have been a good time to say that. It would have been a good time to prove your point, if you didn't know what mattered most. If proving you right becomes more important than the one you're proving it to, then get all your points in. Have a shouting match. Have a screaming contest. Show 'em who's boss, "Yeah, that's so and so". People who do that don't know what matters most. Father didn't even bring up what started it. Ran out to meet him. When you see people trying to come at you, don't stand there and make it hard. Don't make it hard, even if he was right. Meet him halfway. "I see you trying to come. You've got mud on you, and you smell like a hog, but you're trying to come. I just took a bath. Let me make this easy for you. Let me run out to meet you," run out to meet somebody who's trying to crawl back to you, if you know what matters most. So the Bible said the father said, "This is my son, who was dead, and is now alive again; he was lost, and now is found". That's what matters.
The Bible said, the father said, "This is my son who was dead, and now is alive again; he was lost, and now is found". That's what matters. What happened to the money? That doesn't matter. Why were you with the hookers? That doesn't matter. Why were you over there with them Gentiles in the hog pen? That doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is, are you okay?
I never will forget two or three times in raising my children. They would call us and say, "I wrecked the car". Or, "I'm in trouble. I've been in a car accident". I never asked how is the car. The first question is... it is if you know what matters most. So he said, "This my son who was dead, is alive again; he was lost, and is found". And the Bible said, "And they began to make merry". And the thing that gets me about it, after a long period of being inwardly miserable, looking out the window at 2 o'clock in the morning, wondering, "What happened to my nice, neat, little life? How did things get so complicated? How did I get here"?
The father is not happy. The elder brother is not happy. The son is in the hog pen, he's not happy. And after a long period of living without happiness, there was no happiness in the poverty, and there was no happiness in the palace. If you're in poverty, don't envy the palace, because sometimes the oxymoron of life is that the palace can be just as sad as the hog pen. Lord, I'm preaching today. And they began to make merry. Here comes the elder brother. The elder brother says, "I haven't heard no happy sound in this house for a long time". That's a telling statement. When happiness sounds foreign in the house, that is a telling statement.
It says the elder brother was in the field. He heard some noise, "Are they laughing"? When laughter leaves, I don't care how much money comes. When laughter leaves a house, there's no difference between the pen and the palace, when pain has overcome joy. Now there was no laughter in their house to the point that when the boy came in and he heard laughter, he said, "What's going on"? And somebody said, "They're throwing a party up there for your brother. He's come home". And then he got mad. Haters hate to see you celebrate while they suffer.
Can I go a little bit deeper? He said, "I know they're not. I know they are not," and the Bible said he refused to go in. He refused to make merry. Some people refuse to make merry. They refuse to be happy. He refused to come into the party, and then the father had to go get him. And he went out there and got this boy, said, "What's wrong with you"? He said, "Well, all of these years I have been with you, and you never threw a party for me". Haters hate to see you celebrate while they suffer. "You never threw a party for me, and here you are treating him so good, and I was holding this thing together while he was drunk. I was cleaning out troughs and hog pens while he was watching strippers on a pole. He ran through your money, and I kept the house together, and you didn't acknowledge me".
Have you ever felt invisible? Have you ever done good stuff for people and they seem not to notice it? They got so used to you that they didn't appreciate you, and now they're celebrating somebody who did so much less, and that's what makes haters become haters. And the father says to him, "You got it. I didn't say thank you. No, here's the misunderstanding". The father says, "All that I have is thine. You could have had it anytime you wanted it. Because our hearts didn't talk, you didn't realize that all of this was for you. It was always for you. I got up out of the bed and went for you. I did the laundry for you. I drove myself for you. It was all for you. And you never got it, and I never said it, but it was always about you. Now come on in to this party and help us be happy".
Don't keep standing out in the yard, talking about coulda, woulda, shoulda, because life is moving so fast. That by the time you become wise enough to come in the house, the people that were worth coming in for will all be gone. It is completely the epitome of the human experience, because at one point or another everybody in the house was lost and found. Do you think the father wasn't lost when his boy was lost? Do you think you could enjoy the palace when his son was lost? Do you think the elder brother who stayed in the house wasn't lost in his heart? Do you think the brother who went to the hog pen was any better off than the brother in the house?
Before life is over, everybody is gonna have a turn at being a fool, and it never resolves until you understand what matters most. And so, with your families here and maybe some still at the house, and you go home and you see all those beautiful families on TV, and you wonder, "What the world? What are we gonna do, Miss Celie? What are we gonna do"? You see all 'em couples by the fireplace, with the chilled glasses of Chablis, and Nina Simone is singing softly. And you're sitting in the house by yourself, saying, "What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do, Miss Celie"? You see all of those graceful kids coming around talking about, "Momma, I couldn't have made it through school without you. I love you, momma". And yours didn't call you, and you say, "What are we gonna do"? You see the generations of families together, and you look around at your children, dinner on the kitchen table, and say, "What are we gonna do"?
The Lord told me to tell you that you can make merry better only when you understand what matters most. Until you are driven by what matters most, you'll never find your destiny, and instead you'll always insist on proving your point. And when your point becomes more important than your destiny, you'll compromise your future just to show people around you that you're just as tough as they are. And you will compromise how far you could have been because the noise in your spirit is stopping you from hearing your instinct. Noise screams. Instincts whisper. Instinct is a still, small voice saying, "You don't belong in this case. You oughta get over this situation. This is not about you". A small voice points you to your next move. You find your instinct when you know what matters most.