The story of the Prodigal Son is found in the Bible in the book of Luke, chapter 15.
This story is the third in a collection of stories Jesus told about lost things.
The story of the Prodigal Son is a parable. I still remember when the word parable was explained to me as a kid. Our pastor said, “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” I’m not sure who told him that, but it’s the best definition I’ve heard so far.
Jesus told a lot of stories, (parables) because there were always people following Him and asking Him questions. They may have said one thing with their mouth but He knew what they were thinking.
Jesus was wise and He knew that the best way to answer their questions was to tell them a memorable story that hit home and challenged their thinking. That way, even after they went home they would still be thinking about what Jesus said and how it applied to them. Now that’s a good preacher!
I was thinking about The Prodigal Son story recently. As a writer, I love words and the word prodigal is as good a word as any. However, I wondered how many people who don’t spend much time at church really know what the word prodigal means.
The word prodigal is used as a heading for the story, The Prodigal Son in the King James Version of the Bible which was translated in 1611. 1611 was along time ago and according to etymonline.com, a site that deals with word origins, the word prodigal was used as early as 1500 and means, “given to extravagant expenditure, lavish, wasteful.”
The King James Version of the Bible is very hard for me to understand. I read the New Living Translation. That translation uses the heading The Lost Son instead of prodigal. So in this collection of stories, Jesus talks about The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son.
I specifically want to write about The Lost Son. As I said, I have been thinking about this story lately; probably because Father’s Day is coming up. I think fathers (and mothers) put a lot of pressure on themselves when their kids, “don’t turn out right.”That’s the phrase we use, isn’t it? I think this type of regret can rob a parent of joy and peace and most times is unfounded.
In the story of The Lost Son, we read about a father who had two sons. I have heard this story many times and most pastors like to talk a little about Jewish culture so the congregation gets the full weight of the story’s meaning. I have been to Israel once, which is a miracle since I have been a nervous flyer in the past and that is a very long flight! It’s also a miracle because our trip happened at the beginning of 2020 just as we were learning about Covid.
Other than my short stay in Israel, I know very little about Jewish culture. I do not like to write about things I am unfamiliar with so I am not going to give any back-story here about The Lost Son. However, if the story speaks to you, I encourage you to study it from a cultural point of view.
I read the story more literally this time and through the lens of parenthood. What occurred to me was that both boys had the same dad. Don’t say, “duh” too loudly, my point is coming. Both boys. The one who left and the one who stayed.
The father in the story was kind. He was generous. He had work ethic. He was loving and forgiving. Yet his younger son cared more about wasting his inheritance on foolish living than he did about his father. The older son had a chip on his shoulder and was unforgiving and bitter. Something doesn’t add up here. If you put a cake in the oven to bake, you will soon get a cake out of the oven to eat. Cake in equals cake out. (I must be hungry. That was the first analogy I thought of. Okay. I also love cake.)
But it appears here in this story that Jesus told, that the father put good things in his children and did not get good things out. This is a familiar story, isn’t it?
One thing the father didn’t do was compromise his faith and ethics. All too often I hear of parents who know their kids want to drink or do drugs or have relationships outside of marriage; so they tell their kids they can do all these things at home. The justification for these parents is that the kids are safer doing these things under their watchful eye then they would be doing them elsewhere. The truth is, not only will they do these things under your watchful and condoning eye, but they will also do them elsewhere. And if you’re not careful, you will be drawn into the same sin with them. Stand your ground and let them see there are consequences for bad choices. Yes, the old parental adage, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you” is true. And they will not understand that until they are parents themselves. So, again, stand your ground and let it be holy ground. Let them see your life flourish as you follow God.
Parents, God has entrusted us with children. He has given us a holy task and it’s not an easy one; especially if you try to do it without Him. He is our Father and the model parent. We must follow His example. He will help us through all the phases of childhood, adolescence and even tell us how to encourage and support our adult children.
Do you have children that appear to be lost? Are you looking and longing for their return? Then please, don’t forget the best part of The Lost Son story. Luke 15:20a “So he returned home to his father.”
There’s hope for you too. If we can learn anything from the father in the story, learn this: Not only did he refuse to compromise his faith in God, but he kept loving, he kept living and he kept looking for his lost son.