This week I wanted to share a little bit on a story I have been studying and meditating on for the past month. The story of The Prodigal Son is one we are all familiar with, or have heard many sermons on, and have probably read countless times. However, I wanted to look at it with you again and share a little on what has been on my heart.
In the book of Luke chapter 15, Jesus begins by telling them a parable of a man who had two sons. The younger son asks the father to give him his portion of the estate as an early inheritance “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” (Luke 15:12). A few days later the son gathered up his belongings along with his riches and set off on a long journey to a far country where he would waste away his inheritance.
The cultural context
Before proceeding, it’s important to note that views and cultural practices back in those days were very different from our present day. For starters, fathers were highly esteemed and honored individuals, unlike today where they are disregarded, or viewed as absent figures. Therefore, the audience that Jesus was telling this parable to would have been greatly irritated and disappointed in the way the younger son acted towards his father.
Once he arrived at the destination he desired, the scripture tells us that he spent all of his wealth on people, prostitutes and overall reckless living. You see, his father’s inheritance meant nothing to him, in the same manner his father did not mean anything to him. As a result, there was no regard to what he was spending or what he was spending it on. Let’s pause here for a minute. There are so many of us today that deeply desire for the things of God or for what God can give us, but sadly enough have no regard for God. We want to be influential, we want to have gifts and be talented, we want to be successful in our ministries, careers, and education but we want nothing to do with the One who owns all that wealth and ability for us to maximize the treasure stored within us. We don’t care about Him as much as we care about what we can get from Him.
There is yet hope
Yet God being patient, giving, and loving He will still store so much treasure and wealth within us — however our desire to be independent from Him (just like the prodigal son’s desire to be so far away from his father) will often times lead us to recklessly waste away what He has given us, rather than to use it for our own good. I used to be that person. I was so disconnected internally from Him, that I didn’t know what to do with what I was given by Him. And unfortunately I squandered away wealth, and precious time He had given me because I had no regard for Him. Thankfully, God being gracious and merciful that was not the end of my story — just like that wasn’t the ending to the Prodigal Son’s story and just like that too, doesn’t have to be the ending to your story.
The scripture proceeds to tell us that after having spent away all his wealth, eventually a severe famine hit the land that the son was living in. Tough times rolled in – the kind that wealth or inheritance alone could not fix even if he still had it. Often times we go through such storms and difficulties in life so that we are awakened to the reality that it’s not resources we need to survive, but the source itself. You see, the son while in the presence of his father, never lacked anything nor was he in need of anything. His father was wealthy, therefore his life was complete in, and through his father. His life was not complete because he had accessed his father’s wealth, but because he had direct access to his father whose wealth ultimately belonged to. Disconnected from that source however, he found himself in a desperate situation. Struggling to survive through a severe famine with no more riches, the son turns to a farm owner and begs for the job of feeding the pigs. A man from an honorable and wealthy family suddenly finds himself in the lowest of low to survive. Working to feed pigs (animals that are considered unclean) was not yet the lowest. Rather, the scripture tells us that “he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything” (verse 16).
Desperation by design
When his desperation reached a level where he longed to eat that which pigs were eating, he finally realized he had hit rock bottom — “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.’” He recognized that if he was going to be a servant anywhere then he was better off being one at his father’s house. Sometimes, we don’t realize that half of the storms we face in life are only designed to align us back with Him. They are designed to soften our hearts to Him, and allow ourselves to see how much we need Him, more than what we can take from Him. The son would have never understood the selfish character he displayed towards his father, and the danger he faced of being disconnected from him unless he had reached a level as low as he did. And when he finally came to his senses, we see his selfishness being traded in for humility. We see his desire to be distant, being traded for the need to be in the presence of his father again, even if it wasn’t to be a son again.
This could have been the end of the story, but fortunately it wasn’t. The beauty in this story is about to be revealed:
Isn’t a fathers love so beautiful? A love that is not conditional on the faults of the child, but eager to love a child even through the faults. This is the love of OUR heavenly father. No mater how far we go, no matter how eager we are to forget Him or leave Him behind and move on with our lives, He still loves us far more than our earthly minds can comprehend. When we have left Him for the world around us, He still eagerly waits for the day when we come to our senses and realize how much we are loved by Him. As this week begins, I want to challenge you to be reminded of the father’s love. I want you to be encouraged by the truth that there is absolutely nothing you can do, nowhere you can go to escape the love of God. Don’t let your past mistakes, your current guilt, or your shame keep you away from returning back to Him. He is always waiting with His arms wide open.
See you next Monday!