The Prodigal Son
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.” (Luke 15:11-14)
Jesus begins this familiar parable of the lost son by setting the scene for a display of God’s immeasurable grace. The prodigal here represents the tax collectors and “sinners”–and ultimately, each one of us! At the beginning of this story, the son makes an imperious demand upon his father: “Give me now, what is my right.” Isn’t that so like us! We want what we want–and we want it now! Matthew Henry observes:
“The great folly of sinners is being content to have their share in hand, now in this lifetime to receive their good things. They look only to the things that are seen, and covet only a present enjoyment, but have no care for a future happiness.”
I am reminded of the words in Proverbs 30:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)
While riches and material goods are not in themselves intrinsically evil, the love of them is. Paul’s words to Timothy describe this situation perfectly:
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(1 Timothy 6:9-10)
The son takes his inheritance and proceeds to squander it away in riotous living, leaving him destitute and in dire need when famine falls on the land. Now this young man is in big trouble! He has put his focus on the wrong things and it has led him to a desperate place.
As believers we are to be kingdom seekers displaying a life of daily faith. Unfortunately, many refuse to be bound to God’s authority, but like the prodigal son, bind themselves to the things of this world.
Isn’t it sad that it often takes difficult circumstances for God to get our focus back on Him? Jesus tells us:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Take It to Heart
“It is natural for us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful of the Lord to disappoint our plans and to cross our wishes. For we cannot be safe or happy until we are weaned from our own wills and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance. Although we understand this we seldom learn to put it into practice without being trained for a while in the school of disappointment. The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient that when they are broken we are ready to say, ‘What a pity!’ We try again, and with no better success; we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and plan another, and so on; eventually, in the course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us that we are no more able than we are worthy to choose correctly for ourselves. The Lord’s invitation to cast our cares upon Him, and His promise to take care of us, appear valuable; and when we have done planning, His plan in our favor gradually opens, and He does more and better for us than we could either ask or think. I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, which if it had taken place in the time and the way I wanted would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge things by their present appearance; but the Lord sees them in their consequences. If we could do the same we would be perfectly of His mind; but since we can’t, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is regarded as one of His heaviest judgments when He gives any person up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk according to their own wisdom.” (John Newton)