The Gospel of Luke | Prodigal Part I | Luke 15.11-16 |

by | Sep 8, 2021

“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” Luke 15.11-16

[Due to the length of this parable, I’ve broken my discussion up in several sections. If you haven’t read the story lately, I recommend reading it in its entirety.}

The story of the prodigal son is so impactful that sometimes I forget this story is made up. It’s really taken on a life of its own. Rembrandts’ masterpiece painting, for example, “The Return of the Prodigal,” (pictured above) hangs in St. Petersburg and was said to be completed within a few years of his death near the year 1669. The parable has inspired books, articles, papers and discussions including a wonderful book by Dutch Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen named after Rembrandts’ painting.

But Jesus didn’t tell the story in order to be made famous, he told the story so that a lesson about humanity and about God might be learned. The first portion of the lesson suggets what happens when families disagree. The father, who has two sons, had their conflicts. We aren’t certain what drove the younger son away or to demand his inheritance before the death of his father but that’s just what happened. The younger son took his portion of the estate and “set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.’

We can only image the wild living that he conducted. Think of Hollywood parties on giant yachts with every temptation the world can offer. (Actually, don’t think too much about that!) But you get the point. The temptations were many and were made accessible to a young man who had money. So he took what his father had earned and prepared for him for his whole life and went off the “deep end” morally, spiritually and physically.

After some time, he had spent all he had and “began to be in need.” So he went to work for another person who “sent him to his fields to feed pigs,” an incredibly offensive and humbling position for the Jew who believed these animals to be unclean from the Law of Moses. The text tells if that he was so hungry that he “longed to fill his stomach with the pods that he pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”

If the story stopped here, and it will for today, we would find ourselves just as destitute and depressed as the prodigal son. The word prodigal, as defined by his parable implies wreck-less and wasteful. This prodigal wasted the great treasures his father had stored up for him and prepared for him as an inheritance. The lures of the world lasted only as long as his money. As soon as his wealth ended, he discovered he was left empty and without hope.

The lesson is not complete but it gives us a picture of what happens with wreck-less and wild living a part from God’s protection of purpose and purity. The prodigal squandered his inheritance as many of us have done to God’s grace — taking it for granted.

We leave the story feeling a loss for the son who misplaced his fortune, turned his back on his family and now is in need of rescuing. His eventually return to the Father will be beautiful in the retelling for the next discussion.

But before we go, many of us can already relate. We are human beings broken and sinful. Those who recognize this fact, and turn to God, find strength and hope in their time of need. Join me in recognizing our own need for redemption by a God who never gives up on his people.

”O Lord God, you are good. I thank you for loving me and for allowing me to humbly come before you. I confess I am a sinner, weakened and wanton. I know that I am but clay in your hands, an earthen vessel weak and fragile. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Give me hope and love. Call me forth to be the person you called and created. By your love and for your grace. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen