Thoughts on the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15)

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. We know that a man had two sons, the younger of which asked his father for his inheritance, took everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered it all in foolish living. We know that a severe famine struck that country after he had spent everything, so he found himself feeding pigs for a living, and actually envying the pigs he fed! We know that he finally came to his senses and decided that it would be better for him to go back to his father and work as a hired hand than to stay where he was and starve to death. We know that he went to his father and repented, and his father gave him a royal welcome when he returned, killing the fattened calf to celebrate because his son who had been lost was found. But how well do we know the rest of the story?

Remember the older son? He was returning from working in the field when he heard music and dancing, and he became angry when he found out that the reason for the celebration was his brother’s return. His father pleaded with him to come join in the festivities, but he refused because his father had never thrown a party for him and his friends, although by his own estimation he was more deserving for having remained at home obediently serving his father while the other son wasted his father’s wealth.

I’m sure many of us can identify with the younger son. We understand his desire to have control over his own life, to taste freedom, independence, worldly pleasures. We’ve been on the road that leads to nowhere and have found ourselves in dire straits before realizing that we have chosen the wrong path. And having come to that realization, we have confessed our sins and repented and sought the Father’s forgiveness.

I wonder, though, how many of us can identify with the older son. It’s not as easy to admit to being like the Pharisees, who took issue with our Lord welcoming sinners and eating with them, but if we’ve ever decided not to go to church because of the people who are there, then we really can’t deny it, can we? If we’ve ever been more offended by the sinfulness of others than by our own, then we have to recognize the likeness. If we’ve ever chosen not to fellowship with a Christian brother or sister for any reason other than church discipline, then we ought to examine our hearts.

To be continued. . .

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4 Comments

Filed under Evangelism, Sunday school

4 responses to “Thoughts on the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15)

  1. There is so much “meat” to this story, well beyond the prodigal. I have dedicated my blog, using Luke 15, to prodigals and yet, as I have traveled this journey, I have learned so much about the older son and about the father. As parents of an adult prodigal, there have been more times than I care to admit that we chase after him; we try to micro-manage his life, we try to catch him from his fall. When I return to this parable, I am reminded and challenged by the father…who did not go after his prodigal, instead, he stayed and did his business and waited, with great anticipation, for the return of his beloved prodigal. When we have struggled with the family dynamics–where the other children, the “good” children are angered and feel jealous about all of the attention the prodigal gets..and how he disrupts our home…I am reminded of the struggle the older brother in this parable had with his younger prodigal brother. If we are honest, we have all wondered about the fairness of the death-bed conversion, when we have lived our entire lives faithfully. And yet, we are all sinners and all are undeserving–equally–of God’s grace. It is his gift….and his to offer as he wishes!

    We’ve asked our other children to examine their hearts as we examine ours. Would they really want all the attention their prodigal brother gets–by living his life. With the attention comes the devastation of impulsive choices, terrible living conditions, and stress that is off the charts. I think not. Would we, as life-long Christians would have wanted to experience the life of sin only to have a death-bed conversion? I think not.

    The real lesson in all of this…is that the Father waits for each of us. He is ready to throw a banquet for our return. And when we are home, the blessings of abundant life are immeasurable. When we take the focus off of us…and put it onto the Father…we don’t have time for comparisons. We become grateful for His gifts….to each of us…because none of us is worthy.

    I love this parable. So glad you are teaching about it.

    Diane

  2. Yes ma’am, there is a lot to chew on here.

  3. Great lesson here. I would think of this son as the “Miss Goody Two Shoes” of the family.

  4. I am glad you are back sharing your mind and heart with us. Such good thoughts!

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