The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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 there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 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 spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 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 his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 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 dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’” NIV
So what did Jesus mean when he shared this story? There have been many explanations but let me add my take on this lesson taught long ago.
First, we need to place this in context. Jesus was telling this in response to the pharisees self righteousness. The younger son being foolish, demanded his inheritance from the father thinking he could go out and live a life of carefree pleasures.
He soon found out though how hard the world can be when we try to live on our own volition. The older son was faithful to the father and worked hard, caring for the flocks, and land with passion.
The younger son however realized how foolish he had been and found himself in hard times starving because of his foolishness. He returned to the father expecting to work as a slave which in his mind would be all he deserved after his actions. Instead the father welcomed him back throwing a party in extravagant fashion.
The older son was incensed at the father’s reaction, and refused to join in the celebration. So we see that the younger son was foolish, and the older son was prideful.
Both of these conditions, draw us away from God’s intentions and create conditions that are far less than we would experience if we followed God’s wisdom.
Jesus then was telling the pharisees (and us) that we should love, and accept Gods grace with joy. Not to try to live a “good” life of our own doing, but to accept God’s will and guidance, and to “join the party” so to speak knowing that we don’t necessarily deserve it but that it was given freely!
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt), http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_(Rembrandt)&oldid=645635720 (last visited May 27, 2015).
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