“You never depart from us, but yet, only with difficulties do we return to You.” ― Saint Augustine, Confessions.
The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin prepare us for the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable, again, something is lost, but not by accident. The prodigal son chose his course of action. He wanted his family’s assets without his father’s supervision. He wanted to make his own decisions and have unfettered control of his portion of the wealth. To get that he decided on a bold power play, a flagrant defiance of community standards, a declaration of complete independence. He demanded his share of the inheritance early. This was very unorthodox because an inheritance is given at death, not during life. The younger son was basically saying, “I wish you were dead. I want my share now. I’m leaving.” Surprisingly, the father gave it to him.
That was not an easy decision. The father’s wealth was wrapped up in land. To give the son what he demanded meant he would have to sell a portion of his land. Who knows how long it took him to gain it. It could have been in the family for centuries. It would not be easy to part with it. The prodigal son did not care. He wanted the big city and all that it offered. He wanted to spend his inheritance living large. So he did. And it was a disaster. He went through the money relatively quickly and found himself in a pigsty longing for the kind of food the pigs have. His way of living didn’t pan out the way he hoped. Eventually, the younger brother comes to himself. He decides to go home and is welcomed by the father.
These three parables show us one overarching truth: God loves sinners. And because He does, He sends his Son into the world to seek out and find the lost. Without God’s initiating love, we have no hope. We will either run from Him in rebellion or stick close to Him in self-righteousness, but we will never have salvation on our own. We may live within His walls but unless God comes to us in love and changes our heart we will never truly be home.
We are all in the story. If, like the younger son, you’ve been journeying through life seeking fulfillment, but you’ve been coming to the conclusion, “No matter what I get or experience it never feels like enough. This pursuit of pleasure is empty, and there’s just got to be more than this.” The good news is that there is more. You have a Heavenly Father who loves you, no matter how far you have wandered away. You have a Heavenly Father who says, “Stop worrying that you’ve lost my approval. You can’t lose it. Just accept my unconditional love. Come home. Feel my embrace. I want a relationship with you.” Perhaps you’ve been ignoring or rejecting God’s love, trying to fill that empty space inside you with something other than God’s love. It’s time to come home.
I love what the Bible says in 1 John 3:1, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”
- What do you think about the Father giving his son his inheritance when he knew that he would mostly misuse it? How does this relate to God’s relationship with us?
- With the father being our model of love, what barriers stand in our way to being like the father?
- What action could you take this week, based on this week’s message?