The prodigal son
No parable Jesus told ever describes God’s loving kindness towards us better than this, the parable of the Prodigal Son – or better, the parable of the Prodigal Father, the father who is lavish in generosity towards his wayward boy.
The story is occasioned by the sneering remarks of the Pharisees and scribes: “This fellow welcomes sinners and actually eats with them!” So Jesus paints this picture of the true way in which God deals with us.
A rich landowner with two sons, has his younger boy say to him: Father, give me my share of the property. So the estate is divided, and having turned his inheritance into cash the boy departs for a distant country, and squanders it all in reckless living. To make matters worse, a famine hits the land, and the impoverished boy has to hire himself out to a landlord just to keep from starving. He is sent to tend the pigs.
The memory of his father’s house and the plenty they once enjoyed, brings him to his senses in the pigsty, and sets him on his way home.
Already from afar, his father has seen his son returning, and his heart goes out to him. He runs to meet him, embraces him, puts a robe around him, and escorts him home. The son attempts an apology and begs to be treated like a servant, but the old man won’t hear of it. Instead a banquet is prepared for the boy’s welcome home.
When the older son hears of this, he sulks in anger and stays away. His father comes out and pleads with him. The older boy compares himself with his brother. “It’s I who’ve been the good boy, and you, father, never appreciated it. You never celebrated anything just for me, — instead you’ve made welcome someone who wasted away all you gave him!”
“My boy,” the father replies, “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.” In these words we see the tragedy of the two sons, neither of whom understood his father. The younger one certainly; but neither did the elder son, who lived along with his father but never picked up anything of his generous love and forgiving nature.
This is a story for those of us who are wayward, as well as for those devout and good.
For those of us gone astray, we need to remember that God is greater than our hearts. He accepts us as we are, and restores whatever we foolishly lost.
For those who have never stepped out — why are we resentful of God’s love for the sinner? Are our hearts mean and small, like the Pharisees, who would rather punish than forgive, rather sulk in anger than welcome the lost brother and sister?
A story with deep insights into God and into ourselves.