The Prodigal Son: We Are the Lord’s Children
The parallels between the prodigal’s father and the Savior are obvious in this stirring tale of a wayward son come home at last. From this, we are supposed to remember that no matter how far we have fallen, what foolish things we’ve done, there is a return journey we can all make if we humble ourselves. That is where I want to focus my comments, on the naive humility demonstrated by the son when he decided to go back to his father.
In the parable (Luke 15), the son has abandoned home and wasted his inheritance when a great famine hits. Even at this point, he does not decide to go back quite yet but instead becomes a servant to a pig farmer. Despite having a job of sorts that should provide some amount of living, it is noted that “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him” (v. 16).
I wonder why he was still starving and begging if he was working. Perhaps the man he worked for provided shelter but didn’t have enough to give him food. It’s a hypothetical example that the Savior is giving, but since that’s how the story is told, it’s worth considering why the Lord set the story up like this. It reminds me of a scripture from the prophet Amos:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
With the prodigal son, starvation and physical struggles were the focus, but the Lord obviously wanted those listening to consider their own famine, one of righteousness, of doing what was right, of living the words the Savior was teaching. Keep this in mind while you consider the boy’s plan to escape his tribulations as he remarked, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger” (Luke 15:17).
Focus on the boy’s next statement: “I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him . . . I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (vv. 18-19).
When the boy arrived at the home of his father, his father would have none of this self-depreciating talk. The moment he saw his son, he “had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him . . . the father said unto his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry; For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (vv. 20, 22-4).
The Lord doesn’t want us only as servants, he wants us as children. When we feel as low and insecure about ourselves as the boy did, we often indulge self-pity. We consider ourselves worthless and that no one should want or love us. We think that in having these thoughts, we are helping those who we are convinced should not care about us, but we’re really just disregarding what matters to them and the Savior.
He wants us to feast and be merry, as the story describes. Satan would have us believe that there is some point we can reach at which the Savior would not welcome us with open arms, not run across the fields and embrace us, not feed us and give us clothes to wear and a place to rest and call home.
It is interesting to note that despite the famine, the son somehow knew that his father would be able to provide for him. The man he was serving couldn’t feed him, but he was certain that his father’s servants would be taken care of. Did he simply hear his father was doing well, or was it a given?
While it is possible that this far country the boy had journeyed to was distant enough that he could be sure it wouldn’t be plaguing his homeland, I like the thought that his father was immune to the famine because, to apply the parable, there is no famine so far as the Lord and his servants are concerned. The Savior is immune to the devastating events of the world. His servants will always “have bread enough and to spare,” pertaining to things spiritually.
We turn to the Lord, as John teaches, and “love him because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19). Because we were born for more than to simply be servants in this world and then perish when illness, accident, famine, or old age finally takes us. We go to the Savior not simply because he will provide us with peace and sustaining when all other things fail, but because he wants us to have the fatted calf, the ring on our finger signifying our birthright, and the celebration that we have finally returned home.