The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
This is a story with which most of are familiar. The younger son asks his father for his inheritance. The strange part about it was that the father was still alive. Usually, a person receives an inheritance from a deceased relative. In this case it was almost as if the son was hastening his father’s death. The father didn’t get upset, he gave his son what he asked for and allowed him to go his way. In this parable, Christ is comparing this son’s desire to use his inheritance as he sees fit, to how we as humans seem to squander the gift of being made in God’s image. A gift that grants us free will and the ability to chose what we will or will not do. The parable goes on to describe how he wasted his inheritance, like most of us prior to coming to Christ. Jesus describes his lifestyle as reckless or riotous. After a short time of having fun, the son was left hungry and broke. This is an allegory for our spiritual state apart from our heavenly father.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b]22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
The scripture goes on to say when he came to himself. It’s a very odd phrase but It was as if the son had a sudden realiztion of something that should have been obvious from the start. We have to wonder how long it should take someone to come to the conclusion that repenting and asking their father for help would be preferable to being so hungry that you would eat pig slop. You see a complete change of heart in this son. He goes from headstrong and eager to do things his way to humble and repentent. Once he decided he would return home he began rehearsing his speech. We’ve all been their we try to find the perfect words to suit our current difficult circumstances. We practice them over and over again to make sure we have the words just right. However, in this parable the son never gets the chance to finish his speech. The father immediately restores his son back to his original standing, complete and total forgiveness as if he had never sinned. The son was not given a series of tasks to complete or a probationary period. It was the simpliest of equations repentance = forgiveness
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
It was understandable that the older brother was upset. He had done everything right and his brother had messed up, big time. The father pointed out to the older brother that he should be rejoicing as well. Hopefully in this moment the brother would have examined his heart. I won’t try read too deep into the brothers motives because I would be dishonest if I said that I can’t sympathize with his position. But as Christians we are to have a heart like our Father’s one that loves completely and forgives completely.
Lord, please grant me the strength to forgive as I have been forgiven.