How does your story fit into the Prodigal Son story?
Jesus got a lot of opposition from the religious leaders of his day. They didn't like what he was saying about God and his kingdom; his teaching didn't fit their narrative. So, in order to combat their false narrative, Jesus told stories to illustrate what he was teaching about God and how life was to be lived in His kingdom.
One such story that Jesus told was about a father and his two sons (found in Luke 15). It was actually the third story in a string of stories Jesus told to try and communicate how God loves to celebrate when lost possessions of great value are found.
The story of the Prodigal Son is about Pride, Prostitutes, Pigs, and a Party. As the story unfolds, see where your own story might intersect and discover God's heart for you no matter where you are on your journey.
Pride (I want it my way!)
Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them." (Luke 15:11-12)
One day this son goes to his dad and demands that he give him his inheritance. This is a bold, arrogant move because the father isn't even dead yet!
Before we wag our fingers too strongly at this young man, we probably ought to examine our own hearts on this matter. For all of us, in one way or another, have demanded the same from our heavenly Father. We may think because of our hard work "for the kingdom" God owes us blessings of comfort and prosperity. Or maybe we have some understanding of the spiritual "riches" we have in Christ but think we can then just snap our fingers whenever we want to "actualize" such "heavenly wealth."
Pride blinded this young son to the actual goodness of his father and the riches he already possessed as a member of his family. The more his eyes became fixed on himself and his own desires, the less he was able to recognize and enjoy the love and presence of his father. Dad was no longer a person to be known, but merely a resource to fund the son's selfish whims.
Amazingly, the father gave the son what he asked of him. What grace! And what wisdom. Some lessons can only be learned by actually receiving what our selfish hearts demand.
Whenever I have pushed back in disagreement or anger on any of God's boundaries, I have learned the hard way that the source of such rebellion was pride. In the moment, I couldn't see the love and kindness and wisdom of God's restriction; I only saw it blocking me from what I wanted.
Many times God would eventually give me what I was asking for, and I would do with His resources exactly what the Prodigal Son did with his father's inheritance: run away from home.
Prostitutes (the "fun" of sin ... for a season)
Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13)
The son finally had what he asked for and he wasn't going to waste any time getting busy with living however he wanted. He split town and headed to a place where no one knew him and he wouldn't be "bothered" by those religious restrictions of his father and their community.
I'm sure the son was having a fun time. I had lots of fun while I was sinning. Sin is fun! It feels good. It feeds base cravings and urges. But it also operates like a snowball rolled down a white-capped mountain. At first it seems manageable, but eventually its size and speed become unstoppable and dangerous.
The text says this boy "squandered his [father's] property in reckless living." Some translations say "in sensuous living." Sin is about the senses consuming whatever they can. Taste, touch, smell, sound, sight. Notice how sin entices the senses to take; the basic nature of sin is greed.
In a short period of time the young man blew through all the money his father had given him. This is what happens when sin is allowed free reign in a life without any restrictions or boundaries.
God didn't establish boundaries for us because He doesn't like us or doesn't want us to succeed or be satisfied. His law was given to show us the insidious nature of sin and how it will utterly destroy our lives if we give into it. God's law is based in His love for us; He is a good Father!
And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. (Luke 15:14)
Eventually, the ways of pride and greed lead to loneliness and and even greater need. The Prodigal Son, like us, thought that if he pursued everything his heart wanted that he would find true satisfaction. Instead, he found himself broke and alone. His condition actually worsened. This is the nature of sin: it leads to destruction.
But the son wasn't quite ready to give up on his venture. He still thought he could solve his problem on his own. He hadn't yet reached the necessary point of brokenness that would lead him home.
Pigs (the brokenness of true repentance)
So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:15-16)
The Prodigals Son's selfish decisions eventually landed him far from home taking a job he likely would have never considered just a few short months before: feeding pigs.
This may not seem like that big a deal to you, especially if you live in a western, non-Jewish nation. But when Jesus told this story he was speaking to an all-Jewish audience. The imagery of this young man taking a job to feed pigs would not have been lost on them.
Pigs were considered an "unclean" animal according to Jewish law. the Jewish people were not to have anything to do with pigs. So, the fact that this boy even considered taking a job feeding them was an indication of just how far he had wandered from his home. But even more startling than this boy feeding the pigs was the feeling he was having toward them: envy.
"...he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate..."
There probably couldn't be a better way to describe the lowest possible feeling that a Jew could have than to say he envied a pig! And that is exactly where the Prodigal Son found himself, feeling lower than a pig.
But Jesus knows that this is a great place for a wandering soul to be. Sometimes it takes a journey of prideful self-indulgence to get us to finally acknowledge our sin and brokenness. Many a soul has found the hope and delight of God's grace while covered in the muck of a stinky pig pen. And this is exactly what the Prodigal Son discovered.
Party (the joy of a faithful Father)
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17-19)
The Son finally "woke up" and came to his senses. He realized where his pride had taken him and he remembered the kindness and goodness of his father. He then formulated a plan to repent of his sin and make amends with those he hurt by his selfish actions. He hoped and prayed that he might just get a bunk with the servants.
Little did he know that the kindness and goodness of his father ran so much deeper than he imagined.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:18-24)
The father spent every day since his son left scanning the horizon in hopes that he might see his silhouette coming down the road. Now, finally, after many days (probably months, at least) he sees the figure of his son returning -- and he cannot contain his joy!
He runs to his boy (something a Jewish man with his wealth would never be expected to do!) and wrapped him in his arms and kissed him. The son tries to get his confession out, but the father overwhelms his words with an avalanche of grace. He calls out to have him clothed like royalty and for party preparations to be made immediately.
Imagine yourself as this son.
The last time you saw your father you were demanding money from him in a way that wished he were dead. Now, as you return home, covered in caked on mud and filth from the pigs you envied, this same father is embracing you and showering you with kisses and demanding that a party be thrown in your honor.
How do you respond? How could you respond? Do you see that grace has the power to completely overpower your defenses of shame? Could you respond to such grace with a statement like, "But Dad, are you sure about this? I mean I really screwed up! This party is way too much."
Your heavenly Father knows every step you have taken in your wanderings from Him. He knows how you have squandered his wealth on reckless living. He has seen the heaviness of your heart as you stare with envy at the "pigs" you are feeding. He feels your brokenness as you come to your senses and begin your journey home.
No matter what you have done, God's heart bursts with joy when he sees your silhouette rise on the horizon. He can't contain his joy as he runs to you, smile on his face, to sweep you up in his arms, kiss you, and throw the greatest party you could ever imagine.
That's how much your Father loves you. If you've been wandering, will you come home to him?