The Parable of the Lost Son
“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.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a 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.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; 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.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate…..Luke 15:11-32, NIV
At the beginning of this parable, the father did what his son requested, and for his son’s own good. The boys heart was not set upon home but the greener grass. Sometimes it’s best to let people go their own way so that they learn it on their own. Some sons are just too stubborn and pig-headed to believe what their parents teach—so the parents have to let them go and eat with pigs for a season. Pity the parent and child, however, that doesn’t let the lesson run its course, but tries to stop the suffering and rescue. The dad did not run and rescue his son when times got tough. The son was not ready—no matter how much the mom and dad loved him. It’s “tough love” to allow someone to suffer for their own good. Sometimes such suffering is the only way to bring a soul to God.
The father did not try to coerce the son to stay home, or berate him or castigate him for his choice to leave. God does not demand that we come to heaven or that we maintain a close communion with Him and those that are a part of the Kingdom. It’s a choice we make and we refuse His care and love at our own peril. But He will not make us love Him or obey Him.
This boy lived left his home and lived totally contrary to how he was raise and to what his father intended. Truly, he was embarrassment to the family. The older brother took note and evidently began to despise him because of it. It took a disaster to get the young son’s attention—-a famine. People were starving and the boy finally got sober. That’s the way it is in life. God uses a plowshare of agony to get our attention because nothing else works.
This young man went from living high and mighty to begging for shelter and food. He was reduced to a life of being so humiliated that he had to work with filthy pigs—something a good Jew would never do! But He would have loved to have eaten the nasty food that was being fed to them!
He was living in a place where no one had concern or compassion on him. He was surely homesick—but he was in a place that was not made for him—it was made for folks totally unlike him. He came from a respected and prosperous family where his dad’s servants were better off than he now was. A lot of our problems are no different from the prodigal son’s because we are in a place, relationship, job or association where we should not be. Soon enough, we’ll be eating with pigs if we don’t come to our senses.
What happened to this young man after he threw all that he had away, scandalized his father’s good name, made horrible choices and did disgusting things, is one of the main points of this parable. Unlike most young men in his situation, he did not blame his father, or whine that what was committed against his ancestors led to his troubles; nor did he offer that his brother’s lack of affection or acceptance had ruined his life; he did not even point a finger at the heartlessness of his employer. He blamed himself! That is what differentiates between a man or woman, truly seeking God, and completeness, versus one wants to paint himself as a victim and therefore suggest that a lack of justice, (perhaps even generations ago!) justifies why he is suffering—-it’s not his fault! And that becomes an excuse or a crutch for a failed life.
But as with David, this boy’s heart cried out: Against you have I sinned father! I don’t deserve to be your son—-but please me back as a servant!!
Our nation is so steeped in personal rights, entitlement, and now, the ridiculous demand for reparations for sins committed against the relatives of African slaves up to 500 years ago! There is a massive reparations package being discussed in San Francisco that includes a proposal to give every black citizen one-time payments of $5 million, the elimination of all personal debt, a guaranteed income of $97,000 per year for 250 years and the opportunity to buy homes within the city limits. Even though there was never a black slave in the history of California! But a city official from San Francisco, said the draft plan for black residents to receive $5 million in reparations is not enough for proper compensation. Friends, slavery is an evil thing--no Christian could argue otherwise, bu no ethnic group will ever rise above poverty, hate and anger until it addresses its own sins, not solely the failures or sins of others. Everyone of us can trace injustices, barbarity and mayhem committed against or ancestors if we look long and hard.
Today the young man might have sued his father for permitting him to have all of his inheritance at too early of an age, and thus charge the father with neglect. He would have brought unfair housing and hiring practices against the man that gave him a job. He would have attempted to alleviate his shame and guilt by turning to drugs or perhaps killing himself. This is common to most folks way of thinking. Blame someone else, but don’t come to your senses. Because if you do, you face a spiritual crisis of either admitting your sin and giving up all your crutches, or choosing a hardened heart for the rest of your life.
But this young man, the younger hero of the story, blames himself, confesses his sins, humbles himself, returns himself to the place he should never have left, and is ready to wash dishes, scrub the floors and wash the feet of his father’s guests—-he just wants to go home. What good father would turn away such a repentant son?
But also note that he first admitted that he had sinned against God and his father. We leave that kind of guilt and confession out counseling people today. Sin is first and foremost an affront against heaven! Leave that out and your are most likely going to sin against your neighbor or spouse or parents for the rest of your excuse laden life.
Don’t you want to go home too? Don’t you want to return to a place where there’s peace, order, enough to eat and drink, and place where you have a seat at the table?
Every morning in my time of prayer I remind myself, and I confess to God, “Against you only I have sinned! I am worthy of nothing, but please bless not as I deserve, but out of your abundant and overflowing love.” Friends, we have no right for His favor, but because of the body and blood of the perfect sin offering, Jesus Christ, I have His favor—-and so do you if you humbly seek Him and knock on His door.
But the super-hero of this story is the father, of course. He sees the son from far off and gets excited. He has seen that walk before, he recognizes the gait of his son instantly. I wonder if the dad was watching the road every day to see when that boy would walk back. He gave his son the freedom to live under his roof, with his rules and standards, or to leave and choose another way. The son chose rebellion and to bring shame on his family—-and wasted his dad’s hard earned money! But the dad did not care! All that matter was that his son was alive and had come home!
The son was ready and willing to humble himself and become like the least one in his father’s household. But the father would hear none of it! Kill the fatted calf! Bring the best clothes and put a gold ring on his finger! Today is the day I have been waiting for ever since he walked away and no one is going to take away my joy.
Earlier in the day that Jesus told this parable, He said that “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” This son repented….this was a time of great celebration! Do we celebrate when a sinner gives up his/her life of sin and returns to God, or do we hold them in contempt for the life they used to live? Jesus greatest followers were repentant and humble crooks and prostitutes.
That’s how things work in the Kingdom of God.
1. WE have to come to our senses!
The son did the right thing—he confessed his sins, repented, humbled himself and threw himself at the mercy of his father. He was a bad son, but made a good choice and was restored. This is what God, our heavenly Father wants for us! Admit our bad choices and rebellion, repent, and in humility come home! Friends, are you home….or are you at least resolved to start that walk home and fall into the arms of your Father?
2. HE is a Father filled with compassion for us!!!
The father did the extraordinary thing. He forgave his son, restored his son and elevated his son. The love of that dad for that son is a testimony to all of us who call ourselves “dads”. Do we love our sons and daughters so completely? Are we able to forgive them when they apologize for the dumb things they do?
This father, of course, is The Father—He is God Almighty. The One that loves us….waits for us….has compassion for us….forgives….and has prepared a banquet for us.
In my opinion our nation is eating with pigs—-and so are most of it’s citizens. Pray that all will wake up, come to their senses, confess their sins, humble themselves and begin that walk home to a Father that is ready to open up the heavens and bless all of us beyond our dreams.