This parable is commonly called "The Prodigal Son," but it
could well be identified as "The Loving Father."
In this parable there are two sons and a father. The older
son will not be studied here. The father represents God the
Father, who is kind and is willing to allow us our free will to
do whatever we choose, even to "screw up."
The younger son, the one we will examine in detail,
represents those of us who are willing to give up a better life
tomorrow in exchange for a few pleasures today. Reader, have you
ever done that?! Haven't we all?
So the story goes like this. A young man has grown weary of
being under the authority of his father and wants to get out on
his own -- you know, do things his own way. Rather than just run
away, he has the audacity to ask his father for his inheritance
immediately rather than waiting until the father's death.
Here is a key point. The father could have said, "No, I will
not allow you to do this foolish thing," but he did not. Instead
he allowed the son to exercise his free will. The father allowed
the son to choose his behavior.
So the young son set out for a distant land where he indulged
in wine, women and song. He satisfied all of his fleshly lusts
without concern as to what would happen tomorrow.
Have we not all done this to some extent? Have we given up
the rigors and discipline of a college education to get a job to
make some money so we can buy some things? Have we ingested
substances for a present high but endangered our future health,
or worse, the health of our children? What about credit cards?
If we use credit to buy something we cannot afford, are we not
sacrificing our future good for the sake of a present pleasure?
The son wasted his entire inheritance at the same time that a
total famine hit the land where he was. He soon found himself
totally broke. In order to survive, he took a job at slave
wages. The story says the only job he could get was feeding the
pigs, and apparently his pay was so meager he could not make
enough to feed himself and he would gladly eat the food that the
pigs were eating.
He now realized how good his life had been with the father.
How wonderful it would be to have anything he wanted to eat, to
have a clean place to sleep, to be able to bathe at any time and
to have the fellowship of his father and family. His choices,
however, had led him to be at the absolute bottom pit of
existence. He was just trying to survive.
Then the Bible says, "He came to his senses." He realized he
had made a huge mistake, and he was repentant for his choices.
Repentance is the first step to a new life. There was also the
realization that his father's household had provided much in
terms of comfort and fellowship. He immediately got up and
started back toward his home, where his father lived. (Remember
that the father in the parable represents God the Father.)