In the book of Luke, there is an intense encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees who were accompanied by the teachers of the law. The Lord was in the company of tax collectors and sinners which was a scandalous sight to the legalistic self-righteous religionists.
Luke 15:2. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
At these words, Jesus proceeds to tell three parables to the group that has gathered around. The first two being The Parable of the Lost Sheep and The Parable of the Lost Coin which are relatively short in length. The third is The Parable of the Lost Son also known as The Prodigal Son and it’s this story that provides the greatest detail and really drives the message home.
Luke 15:11-32. 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. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 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.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘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.’”
Jesus’ objective in sharing these parables with the crowd, especially the Pharisees, was to illustrate the gracious reconciliation between us and God. The Lord paints the wayward son as the ultimate sinner who hates his father’s authority. The young man wants no family, restraint, responsibility or anything else that might impede his freedom.
It’s important to consider the context of this parable and how it relates to the beliefs of those times. If this scenario were to play out in reality, there would’ve been insurmountable shame surrounding this family. Imagine, the son “spits” in his father’s face, squanders all he has on reckless living to end up in a pen of unclean pigs only to be welcomed back with a massive party. But Jesus uses this extremity to purposefully draw us into God’s everlasting and redeeming love. The Lord wants us to know there’s always an open door to a new beginning which effected by salvation. This was in direct contrast to the teachings of the high priests because they had no allowance for grace and mercy.
This parable can be dissected in a multitude of ways because it carries within it many profound insights. For the sake of simplicity, I will try to pull out quick lessons which ring loud and clear to my heart.
Pleasure in sin is only for a moment because it offers temporary satisfaction. It always results in emptiness by leaving the sinner poor, hungry and hopeless.
John 3:19. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Doing our “own thing” is not freedom because there are penalties to willful rebellion.
1 John 1:8. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Learn to forgive like the father.
Matthew 6:14-15. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
If the sole aim is personal happiness then we will miss God’s brilliant plan for our lives. Expect to settle for substandard if we go our own way.
Ephesians 3:20. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
We all have a natural inclination to run like the disobedient son but we can’t hide.
Psalm 139:7. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
A remembrance of our father’s amazing love will encourage us to repent and turn away from sin.
John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Don’t walk out on God, your parents and the home. The boy didn’t want anyone to know about his business so he ventured to a far away place. Whoever is not accountable to anyone is dangerous to himself and everyone around him.
Romans 4:12. So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Respect your elders. The son was in such a hurry that he rudely demands the father to provide the inheritance which was a backhanded wish for his dad to die.
Proverbs 20:21. An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end.
Don’t be wise in your own eyes. The son’s arrogance led him to be hasty, wasteful and foolish. He had the chance to invest wisely and come back with an abundance but failed due to his sinful motives. We must not misuse the gifts and opportunities that God entrusts to us as His stewards. One cannot continue in deviant behaviour and expect for grace to abound.
2 Corinthians 6:1. As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
Material riches are not forever. It takes wisdom to manage your resources and even if all goes well, one day you’ll have to part with it for good. But the richness that is received from Jesus is priceless and eternal.
Proverbs 23:5. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Be careful who you trust. The young man had people swarming around him when he was living it up in sin but when times got tough there was no one around. We must be discerning when it comes to the influences we choose to keep in our company.
Proverbs 14:20. The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.
Genuine repentance of sins. We need to express heartfelt grievance over the wrongs we’ve committed, pledge to turn away from them and make an active effort to do so. The beauty of God is that He is always waiting with open arms however it all starts with a relationship. Is He a devoted Father or a deadbeat dad?
John 6:37. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.