The next few articles are from Luke 15. As you may know, Luke 15 includes three parables, which we might refer to as “the lost sheep”, “the lost coin”, and “the lost son” (or “the Prodigal Son”).
Now, if you’ve been following Jesus for a while, listening to (or reading) sermons about the Bible, and studying God’s Word on your own, I suspect that you’ve read and heard multiple lessons about this parable of the Prodigal Son. At some point, I may have asked myself, “What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said?” However, the nature of God’s Word isn’t that He is still adding books to the Bible (like a popular author might keep writing books in a series). Instead, there is somehow always more for us to find when we read the Bible, as we learn about what it meant to its original audiences, and – with the guidance of the Holy Spirit – seek out what it means to our lives today.
After the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus tells another parable, this one about a man who had two sons.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Luke 15:11-12 NIV
My understanding is that the oldest son would receive a double share of a father’s inheritance, so the younger son is up for about one-third of the estate. However, there’s something important here: the father is still living. Normally, we’d expect an estate to be allocated to heirs only after the owner has passed on. (A commentator [Black, cited below] suggests that this wasn’t always the case, though.)
For whatever reason, the father acquiesces and gives the younger son what he asked for. Note that the father “divided his property between them”, suggesting to me that the father may have given up his claim on the oldest son’s inheritance, as well. Even if that wasn’t the case, it seems that everything that was left in the father’s belongings is now going to the oldest son.
The parable continues…
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Luke 15:13-16 NIV
Here’s where the “prodigal son” gets his label. A quick online check of the definition of “prodigal” suggests that this term isn’t about running away (or even returning). Instead, it’s about the wasteful spending of money. (Now, I’m not sure what country the first-century hearers of this parable might have thought of, but this sounds like Las Vegas to me!)
Quick check: If being prodigal is wasting money that God has given us to invest, are we “prodigal children”, by that definition?
But, with no additional income or investment returns (that we know of), the money runs out. And, when the money runs out, so-called friends often go, too. Worst than that, though, after not saving or investing, the younger son gets hit with an external problem: a widespread famine.
To his credit, at least this son knows enough to get a job so that he can eat. He might have wasted his rudely-requested windfall, but he’s at least willing to work (even with ceremonially unclean animals, and probably in a pretty messy environment, at that).
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
Luke 15:17-19 NIV
I like this phrase, “When he came to his senses”. It’s one thing to be doing something stupid (even if everyone else can see it but us), but it’s at least movement in the right direction to realize and acknowledge that we’re making bad choices.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to do the same thing as this son, in pre-thinking about what I might say in a given situation. Sometimes, I’m trying to come up with a better answer for a past situation where I didn’t have a good response. Other times, I’m anticipating conversations that may or may not ever occur in the future.
At this point, the parts of the parable that are about the prodigal son are wrapping up, and it’s time to learn about the heart of others. Lets take a look at that in the next article (although I encourage you to read the whole chapter of Luke 15 today).
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 23, 2022
- The Lookout, May 22, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.