Jesus was the master storyteller. All through His ministry, He would use Stories to:
Show His listeners what His Father was like.
Draw people into a deeper relationship with Him.
Perhaps one of His most famous stories was the “Parable of the Prodigal Sons”. Many people know it by this name—but perhaps a better name for it would be “the parable of the faithful father.” As you read it, keep an eye on the acronym F-A-T-H-E-R—it will help you see what kind of Father Jesus was presenting to us.
Notice: The Father gives FREEDOM to His sons.
Luke 15:11-12:11 Jesus continued, "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger son spoke to his father. He said, 'Father, give me my share of the family property.' So the father divided his property between his two sons.
Notice here that the Father didn’t chain his sons to the farm… he gave them freedom to make choices.
Our Heavenly Father is the same way… He gave us free choice. He could have created us as robots but He decided to give us a free will… a will that we can use to either freely love Him or to freely walk away and do our own thing.
As we know from the story, though, when we use our free will to do whatever we please, we often find ourselves in a pig-pen situation. But the choice is completely ours: to take God at His word and trust that He is better… or to launch out and try to make a better life for ourselves outside of relationship with God.
So the Father in the story gives His sons freedom and freely gives them all good things.
Along with this, notice also how the Father is APPROACHABLE and generous.
The younger son comes to the Father and asks Him to give His share of the family property.
Now typically, those sort of things were settled at death. Can you imagine your son coming to you and as you look at Him with a heart full of love, he looks right through you and asks to cash in your life insurance policy? How awful! It is the ultimate insult… “Dad, I don’t care about you and my relationship with you means next to nothing to me. I just wish you were dead because your only value to me is your stuff.” Ouch!
In that day, in order to grant this request, the Father would have had to let go of a large portion of his land (which would have meant losing part of his identity and tarnishing his name in the community). It was a totally self-centered request that looked beyond the Father to His material belongings.
And the crazy thing is… Jesus says the Father divides his property between his sons. What a blow to the Father! Do you feel it in your heart what is happening here? The cold rejection? The preference for the goodies over the Giver? And if we’re not careful, we can do the same thing with God.
Notice what happens next:
Luke 15:13-20a:13 "Not long after that, the younger son packed up all he had. Then he left for a country far away. There he wasted his money on wild living. 14 He spent everything he had. "Then the whole country ran low on food. So the son didn't have what he needed. 15 He went to work for someone who lived in that country, who sent him to the fields to feed the pigs. 16The son wanted to fill his stomach with the food the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything. 17 "Then he began to think clearly again. He said, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food! But here I am dying from hunger! 18 I will get up and go back to my father. I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven. And I have sinned against you. 19 I am no longer fit to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers." '20a So he got up and went to his father.
So after the Father lovingly gives his son his portion of the inheritance, the younger son goes, packs up his stuff, and takes off. He doesn’t stay local. He doesn’t look back. He goes onto another country and spends EVERYTHING he got from his father.
And it’s not like he spent it on good things either (investments, helping the poor, etc.). The text says that he spends it all on WILD LIVING. On partying and sheer foolishness.
He spends every last dime he gets and now, to make matters worse, the country runs out of food. So now the son is in great jeopardy. No money. No food. So he goes and works with the pigs. As he is feeding them, he is actually jealous of the food the pigs are eating. This is not like the fancy-feast chicken on a dish for those uppity cats that we see on TV—this is nasty, moldy, disgusting slop.
Imagine with me corn chowder soup, mixed with old rice, some expired tomato sauce, and a hint of blueberry yogurt. Imagine stirring that slop up and then pouring it into bowl and eating it for dinner. It is absolutely nasty!
And THIS was the stuff the kid was LONGING to eat! Here are some great principles:
When we trade in our relationship with the Father for other “stuff”, it only leads to misery, regret, and eating pig slop from the trough of the world. We don’t always recognize it at first… but we know deep down that leaving our Father for the “open country” doesn’t DEEPLY satisfy us and it only leaves us hungry and jaded, constantly looking for more.
Knowing our Father well, receiving His love, and living lives of good deeds BECAUSE we are loved by Him (not to be loved by Him) is a WAY BETTER ALTERNATIVE, isn’t it?
Ponder this question. What are your thoughts? Is it better? Why? I will elaborate on my thoughts in another upcoming article, but first I would like to know, what do you think? Why would be be better to live like we are already loved than to live in order to be loved by others? There are many answers to this and our team loves to hear different perspectives. So, please share what you think and stay tuned for my thoughts in a later post.