The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is a tale of two worlds: on one hand, there is the remarkable amount of apathy from the son towards the father, and on the other, an even more remarkable amount of love and forgiveness from the father back to that same son. Countless sermons have been preached on this very parable, as it is one of the more famous of Jesus’. Even today, the phrase “prodigal son” is integrated into pop culture to describe someone who has wandered away from their previous position. And while you could preach on this parable for another 2,000 years and still not exhaust all the depths of its story, I want to narrow down some possibly less-talked about lessons we can learn from it as well. Consider:

  1. God will always let you do what you want to do.

Despite the coldness of the son in asking for his portion of the inheritance (basically saying that his father couldn’t perish fast enough), the father was nonetheless willing to give it to his son for him to do with what he wish. What this shows is the existence of “free will,” or the ability for all of us to live our lives however we see fit to do so, whether good or evil. We might like to think that if we go down the wrong path in our lives, that God will always, 100% of the time, directly intervene to force us to come back, but remember, the father in this story only stood watching for his son – he never went into the “far off” country to drag him back against his will. That being said…

2. The father provided when his friends didn’t.

The son burned through his inheritance in a relatively short amount of time, engaging in what the Scriptures call “loose living;” In today’s terms, that could translate to lots of parties and women (see Luke 15:30). But that worldly lifestyle that commanded a dominating social scene reaped no rewards on the back end, as Luke 15:16 reveals that when the famine hit, “no one was giving anything to him.” Where were those same  friends then? The ones that were more than willing to help him spend his money were those same ones who found new friends to leach off of when his money ran out; how many times have we seen that story play out in today’s world? But while they were his friend when he had everything, his father was the only true friend when he lost it all. Which means…

3. Repentance is common sense.

Looking at the situation analytically, it’s a no-brainer: he’s lost everything, and now he’s working in a field with swine, and yet he’s still starving. His father’s house has hired servants that have more food than they can even eat, so why should he stay there and die when his father could employ him in half a second? All it would take is a repentance back to his father’s house and a simple apology, which he was more than willing to offer when faced with the overwhelming depravity of his new life. But how would his father receive him?

4. Repentance is met with enthusiasm

Keep in mind, there was no guarantee that the father would even take him back; as a parent, would you allow someone who spat in your face to walk back in scot free? The real surprise though is not that he was accepted back (he was still his son, after all), but that he was met with such overwhelming joy! We tend to think that a return to God’s house will be met with “I told you so’s” and “We were right, weren’t we?” but the exact opposite is accomplished here. Before the son is even through with his apology, the father has clothed him with a robe and a ring, killed the fatted calf for him, and thrown a party. And if he’s reacting that way…

5. Joy on earth should match joy in heaven

The only downer was that the other brother did not match his father’s enthusiasm. While they partied, the brother fumed, thinking about all the times his faithfulness was met with perceived disinterest. Stewing about it, the father discusses with his other son the necessary joy that goes into a son returning back to his father, that one who was dead, “comes back to life.” In other words, the father’s joy should not be exclusive to him; the other son would have been just as happy, had his heart been right. So we ask ourselves, do we rejoice with a brother/sister who’s fallen away and has since returned, or do we sit and stew about what we “haven’t been given,” wishing for the day when it’ll be our turn? If we are truly God’s people, our attitude will match God’s in all things, and that includes rejoicing at righteousness in any form.

Last modified: January 22, 2019