Jesus told a parable about two sons, often referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. You may have read it. But there are surprises in this seemingly obvious parable, and if you look carefully at the story, you will see several mysteries unraveled. Let’s spend the next few days enjoying all the facets of this amazing narrative.
“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. He would gladly have eaten what the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘My father’s servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:11-19, NIV)
The Story About Two Sons
In this parable of the two sons, the younger son dis-respects his Father by asking for his inheritance so that he could leave home and go do whatever he wanted to. If you’ve heard this story, the focus has generally been on those who wander away or live in rebellion before turning back to God. Of these two sons, most of us can relate to the younger son who left home and squandered his inheritance. Maybe it applies to you… Have you ever “taken your inheritance” and told God that YOU are going to run your life, and you don’t need his help?
If you have, you can relate to the younger son. Perhaps you are chafing against the way things are, just waiting for a chance to do your own thing; Perhaps you are in the “prodigal living” phase, too busy partying to care what God thinks; or maybe you have hit bottom, looking at your breakfast of warm beer and cold pizza wondering, “Is this all there is?”
But there are several more facets to this surprisingly complex parable. The elder son is bitter and selfish. The Father is not what you expect at all, given the circumstances. And beyond first glance, there are hidden elements behind each of the players that deserve a closer look. If you are anywhere in this picture, then remember a couple of things:
The Prodigal Son’s Discoveries
1) No matter how alluring the outside world may seem, the Father’s house is still a place of warmth and comfort.
2) Tim Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” explains that “prodigal” means wastefully extravagant. The younger son was “prodigal” because he blew all his money on frivolous things…
3) Fair-weather friends don’t last, and to contradict Robert Earl Keene, all parties come to an end sometime. The laughter of drunken dancing often gives way to the pain of the morning after…
4) You can never go so far from God that it takes more than one repentant decision to go back home.
5) The younger son is only a third of the earthly part of this story. It is ALSO about both sons and their Father, and the way each of us relates to God. Read the whole thing (Luke 15:11-32) and see if you can’t find yourself in there. I bet you can.
Where Are YOU?
A certain man in a certain land had a son who didn’t understand,
But made a rather sad demand, and took his inheritance in hand–
The Father and his love be damned– and, lacking any better plan,
Went off and partied with the band from dusk ’til dawn, and
Things were grand until the inheritance was gone,
And he slept with the pigs out on the lawn…
The son was broke and all alone (the friends and party both were done)
And everyone but the pigs moved on,
So he finally thought of going home.
Though this story is well-known, Read it a time or two,
And tell me, when you’re done, which of the characters is YOU?
Have you left your Father’s House to do what you want to do?
Partied like a rock star ’til your funds (and faith) were through?
Have you hit the morning after, feeling somewhat blue? Your father watches for you, gazing down the avenue;
You’ll be surprised to know that He can throw a party, too,
And waits at home to kill the fatted calf and welcome you.
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