In the reading of the Gospels, we are brought face to face with the rich wisdom of Christ which is mostly displayed in the parables He spoke. He shared many parables with His people, albeit He understands that parables cannot be understood with the natural mind. And so He uses parables to convey hidden messages, but He leaves the Holy Spirit with the task of unveiling the meanings and application of His deep words to those who seek to understand. Just as scriptures say about Christ, in Him dwells all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (See Colossians 1:3).
In the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32, we are told of a wealthy man who had two sons. The younger son gets up one morning and decides to leave home and go about himself. He asks for and gets his inheritance from his father and he heads off to a strange land. Since he had so much money and possessions, he begins to lavish his substance on vanities – without thinking of his future. He had wine, women, and other pleasures whenever he wanted. Eventually, his profuse and wasteful expenditure costs him all his inherited fortune.
After being hit by difficult living conditions – owing to his foolishness – he decides to humble himself and return home to his father. Instead of being rejected by his father, he gets a warm welcome with gifts and celebration. This gets his big brother crossed and starts a quarrel with his father. His father placates him and reassures him that all that he has belongs to him.
Come along with me as we, together, learn the rich lessons in this parable. I divided it into four parts for a much easier understanding. Please do well to open your Bible and read the entire story (Luke 15:11-32).
Part 1 – Getting lost in a strange land
A lot of times, we make a costly mistake like the foolish son did. We get a miracle from heaven and we forget God for a season, or we make a great achievement and then we throw away the people or the things that helped us reach the achievement. We get married to our sweethearts and after a few years, we start to lose affection for each other. We take our loved ones for granted while we are together, and then death or divorce takes them away from us and we start to wish we had shown more love and care while they were still with us. We commit to a great project, and as time slips by, our commitments begin to wane until we finally lose interest. We take things for granted when they are smooth and then tough times hit and we start to complain.
One thing about the foolishness of the prodigal son was that he actually thought he was making a great decision! In many lives, homes and families, the folly of the prodigal son plays out again and again. We do whatever we want with whatever we have and refuse to obey the voice of wisdom as it tries to caution and correct us. We give in to the enemy’s voice as it deceives us, making us decide wrongly while blinding us to the consequences.
‘And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.’ – Luke 15:13,14.
Part 2 – Parleying with pigs
Listening to the voice of the enemy and complying with the impulses of his fleshly desires cost the prodigal son his fortune – as it will cost us if we travel down his path. Unknown to many, there are many tricks the enemy uses to lure us and bring us into greater difficulties than we could bear. He wants to deceive us so he could end up destroying our lives and destinies. How many hundreds of thousands of men have yielded to the enemy’s voice and left their beautiful wives and adorable children behind, eventually ending up in a really terrible situation? How many have been foolish enough to ignore the counsels of wiser and more matured people, went their own way and ended up in deep distress? And how many will have to? Really, do we have to? Of course not!
‘Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.’ – Luke 15:15,16.
No one shared anything with the prodigal son after he got broke – not even the pigs would share their meal with him – because he squandered all his fortune on himself and will not share with anyone. It was all about three people: him, him & him alone! He satisfied his sensual appetites and forgot the many valuable lessons he had probably learnt from his father. You see, what you do with your substance in the days of plenty will determine your wellness and stability in your rainy days. Those who live for themselves alone and never lend a helping hand to those in need might soon find themselves in a tight corner – hoping for a rescue that might never come!
There is absolutely nothing beautiful about being self-centered. As a matter of fact, God really detests it. When we are self-centered, we shut ourselves in a small corner where no one can find us when we need some form of help – and not even God can find us in that corner! May we be a truly wise people and open our hands to our loved ones and neighbors whenever we need to!
Part 3 – The end of the road
When God allows us to suffer the consequences of wrong choices, it is not to destroy us or to leave us totally, but to teach us gratitude and some wisdom. When the prodigal son finally came to his senses, he decides to humble himself and go back to his father. You would agree with me that by now he had become wiser, more patient and more grateful for the blessings of life such as food and relationships! Although God will respect whatever choices we make – whether wrong or right – but He patiently waits for us to come to our right minds when we are wrong and out of step with Him.
‘And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.’ – Luke 15:20.
Just like the prodigal son’s father accepts him back and even gives him gifts, even so God would never reject us when we repent of our errors. He’s a God of restoration and is very much willing to restore our broken relationships with Him. He wants to heal us, He wants to help us, He wants to make our marriages get better, He want to help get us out of difficult situations, He wants to meet our needs and give us new beginnings.
‘But the father said to his servants, ‘‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.’’ – Luke 15:22.
When people find their way back to Father God, He sees the poor state of their lives and almost immediately, He begins to restore the honor and dignity they had allowed the enemy to rob them of.
Part 4 – When God seems unfair, remember He is faithful!
I know this sounds crazy but the truth is that at times God is not fair, but He is always faithful! This is the experience of the older brother, who had gotten angry with his father and staged a mild protest for his welcoming a wasteful and foolish sibling who had left his family behind as if they never mattered. You would have done the same thing, right? I guess I might have too. But you see, God is not a football match referee trying to keep scores for both sides of a team – God is deeper and greater than that!
I mean, killing the fatted calf and giving beautiful gifts to a wasteful sibling is no way of a parent demonstrating that he appreciates the older and much responsible son who had been serving him all the while. But the father gives an incredibly wise answer:
‘And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.’ – Luke 15:31.
And that settles it! All that the father has for the prodigal-son-returned-home was clothing and some food but as for the older son, he could have anything he wanted! He had served well and was deserving of greater honor and reward. He had full access to his father’s treasures, unlike the younger son who, although restored, will find it extremely hard to gain his father’s confidence or trust.
Have you been serving God faithfully? Then rest assured that He also will be faithful to you and will never let you down! In the right time, He will prove Himself faithful over you!