Children of the Bible, Part 19
We have been looking at the stories of children in the Bible and things we can learn from them to apply to our own lives. Perhaps this next story you would not consider as about a child, but a young son reaching adulthood. He was probably in his early twenties, since a Jewish son was considered independent at that time. He had an older brother and a dad. His father was respected in the community, a man of means and integrity. No mention is made of his mother, which is unusual in this situation, so she may already have died. This story, found in Luke 15:11-32, shows the younger son’s understanding that all of his father’s possessions would become the inheritance of he and his brother. He could hardly wait. In fact, he couldn’t wait at all. Was this the first time he had approached his father about the inheritance? Perhaps his brother was a more diligent landowner than he and he realized that when the time came for the property and money to be divided, his brother would be in a better position than he would be. Or maybe he just wanted to get out on his own, do his own thing, be able to make his own decisions, and not always be ordered around by his father. This young man is known as the Prodigal Son. Many of you can relate to the search for independence by those approaching adulthood.
Two words characterized the son at this point in his life. Maybe you have guessed them. He said, “GIVE ME.” Are you familiar with young people who think the world owes them a living – that is, a privileged living where everything is provided for them and they have no responsibility to work or use their resources wisely? Certainly, in affluent North America we seem to have droves of young people with this mindset: the world owes me an education, a good income, a healthy body, trustworthy friends, a good home with all the amenities, and access to anything the heart could desire. The prodigal son’s “GIVE ME” attitude did not come with any specified plan as to how he would invest the inheritance; there was no specific goal in mind, just “GIVE ME my share of the estate – NOW.”
Now if you were his dad, what would you say? I suspect this son had been pressuring his father for some time and ignored his father’s nudging to just hang in a little longer, to decide what he really wanted to do with his life, and to work out a plan for using his share wisely. The father knew his son was bent on leaving home and going his own way, so, reluctantly, he divided his inheritance between the two sons. He watched heartbroken as his son packed up his belongings and moved to another country, but the son was lighthearted and almost giddy about his newfound freedom.
With lots of money comes lots of friends – the son was too naïve to realize they were only fair-weather friends. He “lived it up” and had the time of his life. The story is as old as time – the money never lasts nearly as long as we anticipate. The friends moved on and in verse 13 it says he “squandered his wealth in wild living.” There was nothing left. To squander means to “spend extravagantly, thoughtlessly or wastefully.” The money was gone, there was nothing left and the son found himself reduced to a lowly servant of a pig farmer. He was so hungry he would have eaten the pig slop and the Bible says, “no one gave him anything.” How sad! Could someone reading this be in the same situation? The passage tells us that as he sat in the pig pen, he came to his senses. He thought of his father’s servants: well-dressed, well-fed, well-housed, content. He thought of himself, the son: destitute, in rags, and starving. He was no longer cocky, demanding and self-assured, but humbled, distressed and a little wiser.
This time he formulated a plan. He would go to his father and ask for his forgiveness. He would request a job as a slave, since he realized he was no longer worthy to be called a son. He had shamed his father and brought disgrace upon the family. His was willing to make amends by becoming a servant. He packed up his few belongings and headed home. There was no spring in his step on the return journey, no giddiness. His head was bowed and his bare feet trod the hardened path as he rehearsed over and over what he would say to his disappointed and angry father. With his head down, he didn’t realize that, while he was still a long way off, his father had spotted him. His father was running down the road to meet him. He finally looked up and then ran toward his father. He hardly had time for his rehearsed speech. His father welcomed him home, clothed him, gave him a family ring and prepared a great feast for him. He had been waiting all this time for his son to return – now they would celebrate.
I think of a close friend of mine whose son did the same sort of thing. No, he didn’t get an inheritance; instead he stole it from the home and pawned it for whatever he could get – jewellery, money, furnishings, etc. For years his parents grieved and prayed for their wayward son, and one day, the son came to his senses. The father’s love reached out to him and received him back and helped him back on his feet. The son turned his life over to the Lord, and the relationship today is one of joy and blessing. How wonderful to know that God is still in the business of rescuing the strays, restoring relationships, and rebuilding lives.
As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” If you are like this prodigal son, God is waiting to welcome you home. You only need to trust in Him. And if you are the waiting father or mother, keep on praying and believing. God is still in control.