The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal Son)
Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
In line with the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus tells an extended parable with the same lesson in mind. However, the parable of the lost son packs more of an emotional punch. Most Christians already know this parable well, even new Christians. It’s one of the hallmarks of our faith; that our father loves us unconditionally, even if we have sinned.
What is striking to most readers is that the prodigal son received his inheritance while the father was still healthy. In many cases, the younger son might not get an inheritance at all. A form of this is seen in the story of Jacob and Esau. However, there was another tradition whereby the eldest son would receive the majority portion of the inheritance and the younger sons (or sons by way of concubines) would receive much smaller inheritances or gifts, while the father was still alive. It would appear that this was the case since the father admits in the end of the parable that it is the eldest brother who will inherit the whole of what the father has.
This was also done by Abraham in Genesis 25:5-6.
Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east. (Genesis 25:5-6)
It would appear that the son, although being ignorant and rude towards his father, was making a request that was not as far out of line as modern readers were taught to believe. However, the request is still an insult to the father and to the whole family. Moreover, it demonstrates the younger son’s immaturity and selfish way of thinking.
Nevertheless, the son finds himself in trouble once he is on his own. He comes to his senses and returns to his father. Some have wondered why the father threw the party because it was possible that the boy had not yet changed his ways but returned in selfish motives. I believe that the story might demonstrate that the party and the reaction by the father was in line with the boy’s repentance. Before the father gives a single command, the son says to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:21)
It was after this statement that the father begins the feast, knowing that his son is not just returned physically but mentally and spiritually. Although, there is a possibility that the father would have done the same even if the son was not fully repentant because the love of the father is always there even if it’s not fully understood or respected by the son.
Likewise, our heavenly father is waiting for His lost children to return. We have the distinct privilege, as Christians, to assist in this process. We must not be as the Pharisees were and complain like the older son. Rather we must carry the mercy and grace of the father to all that we meet. It is easier said than done, but this is our calling.