The Prodigal Son…or Daughter

By: Marcy Barthelette

When I was younger, I got a little testy at the telling of the story of the prodigal son. In fact, I always identified with the older brother. After all, the one who stays and completes all the hard work should be allowed to celebrate those accomplishments….right?

Father, I want right now what’s coming to me. Luke 15:12

It’s hard for us to grasp the significance of the younger brother’s request because we don’t live in a time and place where properties were passed down to the eldest son and other siblings were only willed a portion of the father’s estate, according to his whim. This brother knew he would not be the one to carry on his father’s legacy, however large or small the estate may have been, so he thought it might be a good idea to enjoy life while he had an opportunity. So he boldly, and perhaps foolishly, demanded that his father give him his share immediately and he set off to live his new life of fun and frivolity. We can only imagine how he spent his newfound wealth but we do know that the oldest profession was very much alive and wine flowed profusely in the local gathering spots. It can be supposed that gambling would have been involved and any other competitive venture would likely have been attractive, especially at this man’s young age and level of restlessness. For a time, he felt on top of the world, but as we know, he eventually ran out of funds and possessions and sunk into profound poverty. He was so hungry that he accepted  work caring for swine and even sunk so low as to be willing to eat the pods that were fed to the pigs except that no one would give him any. It finally occurred to him that the servants at his father’s estate were much better off than he. But how would his father receive him after all the mistakes he had made? He knew he had no choice but to return home and commit himself to servanthood in the hope his father would take him in.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Wait a minute….the father didn’t scold his errant son! What was he doing? He ordered the servants to bring clean clothes, a family ring, and new sandals. And then, of all things, he announced a party and requested that a prize-winning animal be set to roast. His joy at seeing this son was overwhelming and he wanted to share it with everyone. But the older son did not share his father’s enthusiasm. He was angry and, yes, jealous, because his brother had wasted all he was given while he, the faithful brother, had worked alongside his father every day and never even been offered a celebration in his honor.

His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found.’ Luke 15:31-32

Newsflash everyone…I am a sinner! Just like the younger brother who took his birthright and squandered it on wine and women, and the older brother who was unwilling to offer grace and forgiveness, I fall short every day of what my Father in heaven expects from me. So how do I want Him to deal with my failures and indiscretions? Would I rather be turned out of my former home to live as a servant or welcomed with a grand party and abounding love? That’s a no-brainer, is it not?

As an adult, I’ve realized that He, God, used this parable to assure us that He is always there, always eager to forgive and grant mercy, no matter how little we deserve it. It isn’t really about the young man who went astray or even the older brother who was unforgiving. It’s all about our relationship with God, the Father.

Even when we try to live a good life, we make mistakes, but there is nothing we can do that is so bad that we forfeit our God-given birthright. All He requires is that we return to Him, acknowledge our sins, and change our ways. That’s quite a promise so what would make anyone turn away? And what would make us not strive to live up to our potential? The answer, of course, is Satan. He’ll lead you down a twisted trail of misdeeds while telling you that following him is a lot more fun than following the rules for good living. Next time that sneaky old Satan creeps into your heart and offers a very tempting invitation to join him on the “wild side”, tell him to scram, beat it, buzz off…just go away!

Remember the Prodigal Son—or daughter and make the obvious choice.

Choose today whom you will serve…..but, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 NLT


One Response to “The Prodigal Son…or Daughter”

  1. Brenda Clark says:

    Marcy – this is one of my favorites lessons from the bible. Thank you for putting it all out there so beautifully. You’re a gifted writer!! I so appreciate you.

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