TWO LOST SONS
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“I don’t need you to worry for me ‘cause I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home
I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”
These lyrics are from Billy Joel’s song, “My Life,” recorded in 1978, just about the time I reached my late teens. While I was no prodigal, the song resonated with me, and while I never admitted it to my single mother, it became my inner theme song. Let me free from rules, restrictions, and your interference; let me live my life as I want.
As I reread the story of the prodigal son, these lyrics popped back into my head. This could have been the theme song for the younger son. Demanding his inheritance from his father, he left what restrained him so he could live as he wanted and not as his father or anyone else dictated.
He left what restrained him so he could live as he wanted and not as his father or anyone else dictated.
Now as a parent of adult children, I think back to those days and wonder how much I must have hurt my mother with my attitude—with my desire to do nothing but leave and set out on my own. We were a family of two—she being a single parent—so leaving home meant leaving her alone. I don’t remember her pleading or begging or criticizing, but like the father in the parable, letting me go. She moved from our two-bedroom apartment to a smaller one-bedroom in recognition that life had moved on and she was now alone.
The prodigal son got his way, and got his new life, but it wasn’t long before he discovered it wasn’t as great as he thought. I, too, got my new life, my apartment, and discovered it was lonely and not at all what I expected. Fridays found me back at my mother’s new place, sleeping on the couch through the weekends, my suitcase spilling out on her living room floor. I don’t remember her ever saying a word, but simply welcoming me home.
We reference this parable as the prodigal son. We do this because prodigal means “to waste recklessly.” But the word has a second definition. It also means “to give on a lavish scale” and has synonyms that might be interchanged such as generous, liberal, unsparing, and bountiful. How amazing! These words describe the father in the parable exactly. He is our prodigal Father who liberally and generously forgives and forgets the recklessness of His child.
He is our prodigal Father who liberally and generously forgives and forgets the recklessness of His child.
I was gifted with a “prodigal” mother—one who bestowed love on me that I did not appreciate as much as I should have. Fortunately, I have a second chance with a heavenly prodigal Father who loves me even more. May we not squander this love, but remember and thank Him for His bountiful grace and be renewed.
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Note that in Luke 15:3 Jesus tells them a parable, yet what follows appears to be three. In actuality, the three are one, although we tend to break them up and tell them separately.
The three stories have one thing in common—something is lost—a sheep, a coin, a son. In the first story, the shepherd goes out to find the lost sheep. In the second the woman sweeps her house to find the lost coin. But notice in the third story, there is a lost son, but no one seeks him.
All three also share a celebration. A party was thrown by the shepherd because he found his sheep. The woman gathered her neighbors together because she had found her coin. And, the father threw a party when his son returned.
But the third story doesn’t end with the party as the first two. Instead, it ends on a sour note. Here while there was a celebration, the older brother refused to attend. This takes us back to why Jesus was telling stories to begin with—the Pharisees were muttering against Jesus’ association with sinners. It is at the end of the parable that Jesus introduced the Pharisees. They are the older brother who refused to accept the sinners who have come to Jesus for repentance.
Jesus is the Shepherd who looks for the lost sheep. Jesus is the woman who looks for the lost coin. And Jesus is the true Elder Brother who looks for the lost son. He does what the elder brother in the parable does not.
It is interesting to note that the parable doesn’t have a conclusion. We only know that the elder brother refused to go inside, but the father tried to reason with him. The conclusion remains with us. Will we be like the Pharisees and reject the invitation or will we go in with the Father and celebrate not only the homecoming of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but His love for all of us?
Making it Real
It’s a good time to play the game of hide and seek with your children but as part of family worship. Tell the parable of the lost sheep. Ask your children to go hide somewhere nearby. Tell them when they hear their name called, to come out from their hiding spot.
Then tell the story of the lost coin. Tell them to go again to hide and be very quiet. Go look for them, this time not calling their name, but diligently looking until you find them.
Tell the parable of the lost son. Tell them to hide, but don’t go looking for them. See how long it takes for them to come back to you. Talk to them about how it felt to be looked for and found compared to having to come back on their own. Explain the difference in the spiritual lessons and how Jesus always is looking for them.
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, who’s delighting everyone with her smiles. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.