Parable of the Lost Son: The Road to Recovery
The Road to Recovery
The very first step down the road to recovery is realization of one’s true condition. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’” (15:17). No one ever turns from sin until they first recognize they are a sinner. God knows the only way we will overcome sin is to admit the sin separating us from fellowship with Him. Before a man sees his need to repent of sin, he is out of his mind. For the fortune a life living in sin is temporary insanity. But for many, it is a life long sentence in the asylum. He lost his good reasoning when he left father, wasted possession, joined a pagan, took a job feeding swine, and ate their food.
With his mind thinking straight, he remembers the goodness of his father. Paul asked the Romans, “or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). The goodness of God leads to repentance. If that father had not given decent food to those who worked for him, the son would never had gone back. Parents and congregations need to plant good memories in the minds of the children if they are going to be able to reflect back on them. Deep in the conscience of many sinners is a memory of the goodness of God beckoning them to come home.
Repentance involves a resolution of the will to turn back to God. The prodigal said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (15:18,19). It was his will to leave and it must be his free will which resolves to return. As his departure was voluntary, so is his return. Notice he did not resolve to return after he picked himself up by his own boot straps. He did not wait till he was more respectable.
The son does not demand of the father to be placed back in the home as a son but a mere servant. This shows just how deeply penitent he was. His father never gave him the chance to ask to be a servant.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (15:20). They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Yet, the son just did not talk a good talk when things were bad, he carried through. The father did not throw his arms around him while he was in the pig pen, nor while he was in the arms of a harlot.
The lost son comes back renouncing his sin instead of down playing the whole ordeal. He did not speak of the sins of anyone else but his own. He did not finger his evil companions as to why he failed. He did not blame the pig farmer he attached himself to. He did not speak of his bad luck with the weather and the famine. He did not give the lame excuse that the was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did not beat around the bush by saying, “If I have done anything wrong, I guess I am sorry”. Instead, “the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’” (15:21).
His father must have been waiting and watching the horizon for his lost son for many years. Night after night after a day’s work he stood on the roof top scanning the hills for any sign. When he saw him, his heart was ready to receive him. He meets him half way. There is not one word of rebuke. He does not scowl and say, “I told you so” or “I knew you would eventually come crawling back one day.” Instead he hugged and kissed him. The point is, if God the father does this for sinners how can the Pharisees condemn Jesus’ efforts to restore the lost sheep of Israel and all her prodigal sons.
The father does not stop and put the son on probation. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet” (15:22). Look at all the father gave him which was not demanded by the son. He gave him a ring. Rings were frequently used as family insignias and showed that he was still in the family. He gave him a robe. Perhaps one reserved for festive occasions. He gave him shoes. Sons wore shoes; slaves did not. All this means he was restored to full sonship. Everything is done by the father to demonstrate full forgiveness. He is totally restored to the position he had lost. He who returns to God in true repentance will receive more from God and God’s people than he expects.
“‘And bring the fatted calf here 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.’ And they began to be merry” (15:23,24). The fatted calf was to be killed. This was the custom; an animal was kept for guests. The lost son is a very special guest. The feast attests to the joy of a forgiving God and the joy of a forgiven man when sinners are restored.
– Daniel R. Vess
Judgment upon the Abusive Rich
There is such a thing as rich Christians. Both Barnabas and Joseph of Arimathea were wealthy disciples of Jesus. Riches are to be used to advance God’s kingdom (Mark 12:42-44; Luke 6:38). Money can be used to win the lost (Luke 16:9); to care for those in need (1 Jn. 3:16-18), and support the gospel message (Gal. 6:6). To weep and howl is great suffering which comes by the judgment of God. The wealthy need to realize their riches can be lost. Riches can rust, corrode and lose value especially in Heaven and on Judgment Day. The pull of wealth is a witness against man and will eat your flesh like fire . They are “last days” refers to the Christian Age (Hebrews 1:1-2; Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:20). The rich had caused the poor day laborers to cry out to the Lord because the rich have withheld wages. Such was condemned in the Law of Moses. “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning” (Lev. 19:13). Their cries will be heard by the “Lord of Sabaoth” which is the Lord of hosts or Lord of armies (cf. 1 Sam. 17:45). God sees all and has many angels at his disposal to seek justice. In contrast to the poor, the rich had lived on earth in pleasure and luxury. They have fattened your hearts with the pride and false security of money. They will face the “day of slaughter” which is Judgment Day. The poor are powerless to resist these abuses by the rich. God is not powerless.
– Daniel R. Vess