The more I ponder on the parable of the prodigal son, the more I am in absolute wonder at the beauty of this story and how the bible speaks to us about God’s love.
This parable can be looked at from three different viewpoints. The son who took his inheritance, the son who stayed at home and the father.
The son who took his inheritance was impulsive, with no sense of duty towards his family. He knew what his inheritance would be but he was impatient and couldn’t wait for it, so with the audacity of one so young and impulsive, he asked his father for it. It may not have consciously crossed his mind, but what he was really saying was, “I can’t wait for you to die!” So his father gave him what he asked for.
Meanwhile the other son, who you might say was the responsible and dutiful one, stayed and continued to work on the estate.
When the younger son had spent his entire inheritance on wild living and had nothing left, he began to reflect on his past… thinking of what he’d left behind. He had sunk so low that he was looking after pigs belonging to a gentile, for surely no respectable Jew would keep such unclean animals. He wished he could share their food just to survive, he was so hungry. He’d hit rock bottom. How on earth has it come to this, he reflected. I had everything and now I have nothing. My father is a good man, he treats his servants well and they have plenty to eat… I will return home and say to him, Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands. So he left the pigs and set out on the journey home.
Every day since the son had left, the father had come out to look for him. He missed him so much and longed to see him again. On this particular day, as he looked out, he saw his son walking towards him and his heart was filled with joy! He ran out to meet him – and the son, not expecting a welcome, began his rehearsed speech. Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son… But before he could say, Make me like one of your hired servants, the father had flung his arms around him and embraced him. He called to his servants to bring a robe and sandals, and put a ring on his son’s finger, then he called for the fattened calf to be killed. His son was gone for so long – he didn’t know if he was dead or alive – but now he was home. It was the most wonderful day and worthy of a huge celebration.
The older brother, wondering what the commotion was, asked a servant. When he heard that his brother had returned he was not pleased. This selfish, reckless boy had been given his inheritance while his father still lived and had not even thought about his brother being left behind to do the work of two. Though the father tried to encourage him to come into the banquet, the older son refused as he felt so angry and resentful. He now directed that resentment not just at his brother, but at his father too. He felt his little brother had been given everything. The irony was that one day, he would inherit everything the father had. His brother would have nothing other than his father’s love. But sadly, the older brother couldn’t see that he too was loved. He was working to build his own inheritance, but didn’t build his relationship with his father.
And therein lies the moral of the story…
We all expect to inherit something, someday. But will it be what we think is rightfully ours because we’ve worked for it? Or will we have the joy of experiencing the love of the father, that we haven’t worked for, and don’t deserve but is freely given?
The choice is yours….