Imagine a person in a dark place for a moment: no food, clothing torn, by the world’s standards a beggar. They have scars from the many fights, most of them defensive, resulting from run-ins with others out on the street. What if you chose this life? It is hardly imaginable that someone would choose to change a life of luxury to live on the streets but that is exactly what this person did.
Your first response would be “No one would ever give up so much to beg and poach on the street”. Our subject did not actually choose a miserable life; they made a bad choice that eventually led to their current estate.
Some of you may already know where I am headed. We will be looking into the third of three parables Jesus gave to the Pharisees in response to their comment about the company he was keeping.
The Pharisees were upset to see Jesus associating with “the publicans and sinners”. The first group, Publicans, was tax collectors of Jewish descent. They would go out and collect the Roman taxes. They were considered traitors and they also had a reputation for extorting even more than the people owed. The second group is self-explanatory, people without faith. Jesus used three parables to show them, to God all men are precious. This is the context for the parable we will look at today.
The Voice of Pride
Our subject is the younger of two sons. We are not given the reason why the younger son chose to leave. We know in the country we live in this same choice is repeated far too many times. It usually boils down to believing that the boundaries set within the home are too strict so they leave. No one expects their road to lead to the streets. In our scripture text the son asked for and received his inheritance. Afterwards he leaves town and blew it all on one party after another.
I am sure, while the money lasted, companions were no issue at all. Now he is broke, alone and the economy has taken a turn for the worse.
To the Jewish people, pork was unclean. They didn’t eat pork so they certainly would not have anything to do with the animal. This information increases the level of despair we see in verses 15 & 16 where he is tending to the hogs. We even see where he is so hungry he considers eating their food. (I have some knowledge of raising hogs; the food fed to hogs is called slop for a good reason)
The Voice of Humility
In verse 17 the son thinks back to his former life; the servants in my father’s house were well cared for. In verse 18 he admits his bad choice and hopes his father would accept him back, not as a son, but as a servant. With a humble heart, verse 19, he accepts any consequence for his actions hoping only to go home and serve in his father’s house.
The Voice of Happiness
The father, seeing the son coming his way, runs to meet him; this was a day of rejoicing. The son, just like he planned, humbles himself and asks only to be a servant. The father, overcome with joy, calls for a feast.
The father said, I thought I had lost you but now you are home. The son was welcomed back into the family.
Real Life Prodigal Son
Recently I listened as a man told me his real life prodigal son story. He had just finished his first year in college. Over those two semesters he had lived on campus and grown accustomed to making his own rules. Now, during the summer, he was back home. Soon the rules began to cramp his style; the rules were the same ones he had before leaving for college but he was grown up now, he should be able to make his own rules.
Then it came, the clash between father and son resulting in the unthinkable, you are grounded. Grounded, what do you mean grounded, I’m 19 years old.
The young man left, not telling his parents, and stayed somewhere else. In effect he lived out of his car. A couple of weeks pass and the son understands he has made a huge mistake. He decides to come home and face his dad, but an interesting twist develops, when he gets home they are not there.
After a quick inquiry he finds out where his father is and goes to meet with him. As the son approaches the garage where his father is working he says “Dad”. Immediately the father drops the tools in his hands and runs to embrace his son.
I have given you two stories about the same thing; one was a parable from the bible and the other a real life example. They both teach the same lesson.
Are there consequences for bad decisions? Yes. Initially the son in the parable and the son in the real life story both enjoyed their freedom at first, but as it always is with sin, there is a price to pay. In the parable and the real life story, as time passed, being away from home was difficult at best. The real question is… Can we come back home? Again, thankfully the answer is yes.
To the person out there that made a bad choice and left home: is the price you are paying now worth maintaining your foolish pride? Please go home!
Let’s not forget the context for the parable given in scripture: if you find yourself spiritually on the run from God stop and consider where you are now. The prodigal son stopped to consider, the real life son stopped to consider as well. They both understood they were the ones who made the bad decision. They would have to make the first move.
I can tell you by the authority of scripture God wants you to come home. Humble yourself and pray, admit the error, turn from it and God will be waiting to greet you.