Heavy Baggage: The Damage of Immaturity
1 Corinthians 13:11
July 23 and 24, 2011
Have you ever seen a toddler have a meltdown in the grocery cereal aisle? You know the scene. Child grabs brightly colored box of sweet cereal; Mom puts it back on the shelf. Wow! There is a lot of energy expended; body thrown to the ground, little head banging on the floor, clenched fist, red face and very loud wailing. All of this because Mommy said, “No.” If you love a toddler you are familiar with scenes like this. They happen quickly and end just as quickly (usually). Little children often have tantrums because they lack impulse control. They want, they take, and they pitch a fit when anyone intervenes. For children scenes like this are classrooms for learning, if excellent parenting skills are in place. In this classroom of life, kids learn how to control their impulses and learn cope with not getting what they want. In an ideal setting, children can learn the value of delayed gratification. If you are already thinking, “Well, it‟s too late for me then!”
hold on. Grownups can learn too. You really can become the grownup you look like you are. In 1995 Daniel Goleman released his book groundbreaking book EMOTIONAL
INTELLIGENCE which was inspired by the work of two other researchers, Salovey and Mayer. Dr. Goleman was increasingly disturbed by the rising violence, depression, aggression, meanness, and selfishness in human society. His research opened the doors for new ways to understand and transform the mind and its emotions. In fact, the newest edition of this book has recently come on the market. As I reading, this Bible verse came to my mind;
I Cor. 13:11
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
Let those words sort of marinate for a bit. They are rich with truth, as I hope you will see in the time we have together. Jeff‟s sermon series has highlighted many of the issues folks deal with on a daily basis. Each one is painful, powerful, and present, especially the subject we are here to explore…the heavy baggage of immaturity. If anyone has ever said to you, “Oh! Grow up!” then
you may already have first-hand knowledge of the damage caused by immaturity. It is frustrating as all get out to deal with anyone who behaves in childish ways, isn‟t it? Immature adults bring
pain to co-workers, loved ones, waiters, cashiers, clients, in fact, just about anyone they encounter. Why is that? They are immature, that‟s why! They are unable to make healthy
connections with others. If you have ever locked horns with a 12 year old girl, you know what I mean! Their minds and ears are impenetrable at the height of their furry. The difference is, we can expect that sort of drama from children, but it becomes inexcusable from 30 and 40 year olds. Adults should be, well, ADULT. Adults should have accomplished what our opening scripture emphasizes; putting childish talking, thinking, reasoning behind them. This doesn‟t mean we
must lose our childlike joy, wonder, and playfulness. Those are all are keys to a healthy emotional life. But what will not enhance our lives are tantrums, pouting, rash decisions, lack of impulse control, irresponsibility with money and property, boasting, grandiosity, selfishness, and the need for immediate gratification. That‟s just the shortlist for immaturity.
If you are beginning to feel uneasy let me comfort you; while it is true that most of our emotions and attitudes are shaped in childhood and adolescence the negative ones can be reshaped. Will it be hard work? You betcha! But work worth the doing.
Our Bible is chocked full of immature men and women. These are characters who exhibit moments, and even lifetimes, of immaturity. I believe these folks are included in the story-that-is-the-Bible because God wants us to understand the real damage and danger of behaving like spoiled kids. Consider these Bible characters and their dilemmas;
; Ahab, king of Israel, just had to marry Jezebel, the head honcho of the cult of Baal. [ I
; Joseph, with his amazing Technicolor dreamcoat, was daddy‟s favorite made him the
target for sibling rivalry.
; Jonah, the resentful pouter, resisted God‟s mercy toward Nineveh and ran in the opposite
; Zacchaeus in Luke 19 extorted the taxes from his fellow Jews
; The arrogant Pharisee in Luke 18, made sure to pray out loud so that everyone would
know he was righteous and superior
; The rich young man in Matt 19, just couldn‟t follow Jesus because his great wealth was
more important to him.
; The great apostle Peter named Jesus The Messiah, yet denied him when it counted most.
Any of these ancient people could be the poster child of adult immaturity! Their immaturity
was their downfall, in most cases. You gotta love the fact that the Biblical writers didn‟t paint
the characters in a golden light. They are in there, warts and all.
In our featured story we find a pair of very immature brothers. They want what they want
when they want it. One has zero impulse control and the decision-making skills of a 13 year
old. The other is arrogant, prideful, bitter, and jealous.
Here is the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal is an interesting word, and one we
do not use often. It means to be wastefully or recklessly extravagant, which is exactly the
definition of the first son‟s actions. But if you will allow me a bit of artistic license, I would
like to rename the tale The Immature Sons. Somehow I don‟t think Luke would mind.
1112 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father,
„Father, give me my share of the estate.‟ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and 14there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe 15famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to 16a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach
with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, „How many of my father‟s hired servants have food to 18spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 19Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your 20son; make me like one of your hired servants.‟ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, „Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.‟
22 “But the father said to his servants, „Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on 23his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let‟s have a feast and 24celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.‟ So they
began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and 2627dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. „Your brother
has come,‟ he replied, „and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.‟ 28. Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29. But he answered his father, “Listen, for all these years I have been working
like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30. But when this son of yours .came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes you killed the fattened calf for him.
3132 “„My son,‟ the father said, „you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we
had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.‟”
Both of these adult males are as lost as they can be; Lost in their ideas about themselves and others. Their self-awareness is distorted and has inhibited their growth. They want; they demand; they resent and they rebel. Like the toddler in the cereal aisle, the first son grabs for the box that is sweet but lacks nutrition. He demands that dear old dad hand over his share of the estate which would be a third. If you have dysfunctional adult kids you can really identify with this father, can‟t you. The young man in the parable gets what he demands and, by the way, the other brother gets his share too. See that in verse 12 “So he divided his property between them.” His pockets full, the younger son heads off to Vegas to party like a rock star. Well, not really, but you get the point. The first audience would think of Italy, North Africa, Babylon probably. The scripture calls it dissolute living, which is just code for “party like a rock star!” Only later in the story do we learn what he did with all that money. Remember when the older son fires back at his father that junior had, “…devoured your property with prostitutes.” Don‟t you wonder how he acquired that tantalizing piece of information? Tattletales, tantrums, sibling rivalries are out
of place in healthy adult interactions, yet here they are, front and center in this Bible story and Luke has Jesus teaching powerful life lessons with this parable.
25Let‟s look again at the eldest son‟s tantrum. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When
26he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and
27asked him what was going on. „Your brother has come,‟ he replied, „and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.‟ 28. Then he became angry and
refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29. But he answered his father, “Listen, for all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I never
disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes you killed the fattened for him!”
Do you hear the bitterness, rage, jealousy and finger pointing? They are all signs of immaturity. There is much to learn from this parable.
First, you can‟t grow up if you refuse to realize you need to. Listen, Jesus loves little children.
We know that from song and scripture, but we also know that the innocent acceptance of Jesus is the beginning of path to maturity. Paul warns the Corinthians to grow up into people of the spirit and not remain “mere infants”. What has caused Paul to address them so harshly is that they are acting like little toddlers throwing tantrums.
I Corinthians 3:1-3 from The Message
1-4But for right now, friends, I'm completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You're acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I'll nurse you since you don't seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast.
We must grow up. We are called to mature both as human beings and spiritual beings. That means we are required by God to “come to our senses” like the younger brother in the parable. He had to hit rock bottom, feeding pigs, unthinkable for a Jew. In that hog wallow, his head clears (probably because he has sobered up) and he begins to realize that this is not the life he imagined when he left home. In fact, we get sense from the story that the young man hadn‟t thought much past getting the money and being out on his own. You‟ve surely
had this experience with your kids. “I can‟t wait till I can get this house and be on my own.” It is a childish statement with an adult truth. We want our kids to grow up and be independent. We want them to be whole and able to live full, happy lives but we also know that kids throw that statement out in anger and blame both to hurt their parents and to proclaim their desire for independence. They imagine independence as party, party, party in the far country. And I think that is exactly what the young man imagined too. Never asking, “What happens when the money runs out?” “How will I support myself?” That is immaturity-the inability or unwillingness to think things through to their logical conclusions. Again I say, God has called all of us to” put the ways of childhood behind us” and grow up.
This is chilling if you are struggling with your own areas of immaturity. It seems that some of us grow up in nearly all the important and helpful ways but may still have a corner in
ourselves that is stunted; that needs work. There is hope. We can transcend our infantile
The Father in the story is God. The sons are us. By the way, if you are beating yourself up
because your adult kids are dysfunctional, let me share a little secret with you that is evident
in this parable. God is the perfect parent, and just look what a mess His kids are! A very wise
woman told me that and it is so true. God is keenly aware of our immaturity and the damage
it causes and God is determined to help us grow out of it. He allows the younger son to learn
his lesson the hard way and he gently encourages the embittered oldest son to see past his
resentment so he can celebrate his own place in the family…a place he apparently has never
allowed himself to enjoy. Immaturity will do that do you.
We can grow up into stable adults, even if we are 50 and beyond. It is what God imagines for
us and if it is what God has imagined then we don‟t have to accomplish it alone.
There is a little Bible verse that highlights what I am talking about. The verse says, Matthew 5:48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
If you are like me, you immediately think, “Well I‟m out of luck! I can‟t be perfect, let alone be
perfect like God! That is impossible in this life.” But listen, when this bit of scripture popped into my mind I decided to do a little research on the Greek. And lo and behold, what did I discover? The word rendered “Perfect” actually means “mature”. It really does. Ripe, fully
grown, complete. Thus it means “reach your maturity, God says you can.”
Bishop Shelby Spong says that guiding us to this perfection or maturity is the function of The
He says, “We are emerging people….our problem is we don‟t know how to achieve being fully
human; The function of the Christ is not to rescue the sinners but to empower and call you to be more deeply human; more than you realize you had the potential to be.”
We cannot realize our potential when we are blinded by our infantile ways. We must stop being so mad we can‟t see; demanding our own way; wailing at the top of our lungs for attention;
creating conflict and drama with everyone we encounter.
Immaturity is heavy baggage for us and those who love us and long to see us stable, at peace, calm, and rational…living fulfilling and whole lives.
Like the Father in the parable, Jesus is tenderly pleading with us to clear our heads and return from the far country.