The Prodigal Son

stained glass depicting the prodigal son's return

Have you ever felt like you just wanted to get out and see the world? How many of us can identify with the young man in the parable of the prodigal son who just wanted to get out from his father’s roof and make a life for himself? We’ve all had times when we just couldn’t wait to be more independent, but, when we seek independence from God, that’s when we start to run into problems.

Luke 15:11 – 23:

And He said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

“So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.’”

A Far Country

In this parable, the younger son travels to a far country, and he realizes things really aren’t better than in his father’s home. His idea of freedom turns out to be an illusion. This is what happens when we stray from the Father. If we are not serving Him, we just enter into another form of servitude. Romans 6:15 – 23 calls us either servants of sin or of righteousness. When we seek that far country from God, we become indentured to sin, and we have no more hope for eternity. What we give up for freedom from God is nothing compared to what we gain by remaining true and faithful.

A Humble Return

Verse 16 of the parable sees the son reaching his lowest point, and he realizes what he left behind. He resolves to repent and return to his father in humility. This type of crucible makes us realize that we are nothing without Christ. When we reach our lowest, that’s when our hearts are most tender. As Galatians 2:20 says, we are all crucified with Christ. In this, we set self aside, and we allow Christ to live in us. We must empty ourselves just as this prodigal son empties himself before his father.

Humility gives us strength. It allows us to see ourselves as we really are — broken and in need of a father. And, like the father in this parable, our Heavenly Father is always ready to receive and forgive. No matter how far we’ve traveled from God, He is always waiting for our return. An avenue for forgiveness and restoration is always there for us.

The Older Son

Luke 15:25 – 32:

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’

“But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

We can all identify with the younger brother, but we may not want to admit the times we identify with the older. We should always be ready to receive and forgive when an erring sister or brother comes back to the Father. We should be as willing to take back a repentant sinner as we would want to be received ourselves. We are one family. None of us are perfect, but we have a perfect Father holding us all together.

We’ve all been far from God, but Jesus closes that gap in His sacrifice. He invites us home, and now is always the best time to return. Our Father is waiting and watching. Turn to Him and confess your need for Him.

lesson by Don Larsen