The parable of the prodigal son is a moving one which teaches us about God’s love and His willingness to forgive us no matter what we have done. The word “prodigal” is a word not used much in God’s Word. It’s basic meaning is wasteful, wanton, especially regarding money. It indicates the type of person who wastes their money on things that aren’t worth much, just plain reckless spending.
In Luke chapter fifteen, Jesus is teaching and there were tax collectors and sinners listening. There were also scribes and teachers of the Law in the crowd too. They were judging Jesus by the company that He was keeping: “This man eats with sinners and tax collectors!” It was for them that He told this parable.
Luke 15: 11-32:
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 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. 21 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.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
In these passages and in this parable we see the son who essentially has declared his father dead. He wanted what was to come to him even before his father had died. Kind of sounds like our society today, “I want it NOW!” Not many days pass before he takes off into the world (the far country) where he spent his inheritance on women and drink and parties. While doing this, he had many “friends”. Running away from God’s authority to do whatever we wish to do, like many of us have done or maybe are doing now?
But when the money ran out and it was gone, those “friends” disappeared and a famine came to the land where he was. He had no money left and couldn’t afford to eat and began to feel in want, so he hired himself to a citizen there in order to be able to survive. He was sent into the field to feed pigs, which to a Jew is at the very bottom of the barrel. Pigs are not even given a name in the Hebrew language, they are just called “the other thing or animal”.
At this point he was so hungry, that even the pods that he was feeding the pigs with were looking very appetizing because no one gave him anything to eat. When he came to his senses, he decided that he would go home and ask his father if he could just be a servant, because even his father’s servants had enough to eat. His father was looking, hoping that his son would come home and when he saw him, he ran to greet him.
In the Middle East, this was a very undignified way for a father to act because a man over thirty years of age doesn’t “run” anywhere. This one did. He listened to his son’s repentance and the question of being a slave or a servant and said “Nonsense, bring a robe and put shoes on his feet and a ring on his finger”. His father did not take him back as a servant, he was fully restored to his previous place. Of course the older brother was offended and the sibling rivalry came roaring back, as you can read in the story.
The point of the story is this, God will forgive you regardless of the insult or the sin, no matter how bad you may think that you have been. God’s grace covers every sin, no matter the size. He loves us with a love that we can’t comprehend, all that we have to do is repent and ask Him to forgive us. Turn away from what you were doing, and follow Jesus from that point on. Even if you only have a few days or hours to live, God will take you just as you are.