We are looking at the Prodigal Son parable in the Gospel According to Luke. The parable is found in the Gospel According to Luke chapter 15. For the next few blogs, I would like to highlight and reflect on the characters portrayed in the parable. The characters we will be focusing on are the Father, the Younger Son, the Older Son, and the Servants.
Next in our character study is the Youngest Son. Without reason or warning, we see the youngest son decides to disown his family and move as far away as possible. The son goes up to his father asking for his inheritance now. It is like saying he wished his father was dead so he can get his inheritance. Ouch. The story tells us that the father gives the child what he wants. The Father splits his estate and earnings between his two sons and gives his youngest what he asked. The son then goes away to a distant country where he spends the money extravagantly, wastefully, and wildly. It is not a problem until the country he is in goes through a famine. The youngest son then has to become a hired field hand taking care of pigs on a strangers farm. This story should strike people as humiliating working with the pigs after being someone who had wealth and his family property. Also, pigs are unclean and not kosher animals.
The Younger Son is starving at this point. He is so desperate he wants to eat what he is giving to the pigs. Then he gets an idea. He remembers his home fondly, and that the servants on his father's land would be treated better and have better food, then he is getting now. "Maybe," he thinks "if I go to my father acknowledge how wrong I treated him and beg him to be one of his slaves he will take me back." The Younger Son believes this is his best option and returns to his father.
To the Younger Son's surprise, the Father greets him warmly with a hug and a kiss. The son believing this is his chance expresses his remorse for the way he acted. The Father accepts the apology, and not only welcomes him back but restores his status of being his son without hesitation. Not only that but his father decides to throw him a welcome back party. He takes the most expensive calf they have and prepares it as a main course for the party. They spend the rest of the evening partying and having a good time.
I feel like this story is a story for anyone who tries to do things there own way. I connect with this story because I am the type of person who has to do things there own way. The problem with this is that is how Adam and Eve felt. They wanted to take and rule creation on their terms, rather than partnering with God. It takes a great act of humility for that type of person to come before there father and ask for forgiveness. For the son, there is an acknowledgment that his ways are not the best ways of doing things. The son refuses to see himself as part of the family and goes off to live his life on his own terms. The Father allows his son to do this but hopes he won't. In the end, the son finds that his ways have led him not to prosperity and community, but poverty and loneliness.
This story is the reminder of what the gospel truth says about humanity and where it is going. The truth is we are self-centered people that put our own needs before others in most cases. We seek to do things our own ways rather than with God and in God's ways. God's way looks like other-centered caring and loving for people that in our current situation being other-centered is out of the norm and only for certain people. Other-centeredness also comes on the opposite spectrum of helping others with negative impacts or coming from unhealthy places in ourselves. It is in looking to Jesus that we find what it means to be truly human. Jesus partners with God to be other-centered creating abundance, life, and community where ever he goes.
Finally, despite our rejection of the Father, whether it be we never have recognized our relationship to him or seek to do things our way despite recognizing our relationship with the Father, the Father is there with open arms waiting to love and work with us.