[PART 3 OF 4]
In the previous article, we looked at the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the perspective of the father in the parable. In this article, we will re-examine the parable from the perspective of the prodigal son himself.
Go ahead and read through the parable again by clicking here. Then come back and continue reading.
THE PRODIGAL SON’S PERSPECTIVE
First, let’s look at a little bit of background information. It was a custom among the Israelite people for a father to divide up his possessions between his sons as their inheritance. According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the oldest son received a double portion compared to the other sons.
So, in Luke 15, the younger son knows that he has a portion of his father’s possessions coming to him as his inheritance. It will only be half as much as has been set aside for his older brother, but it’s his inheritance nonetheless. And he wants it … and he wants it now! He has had enough of this domestic home life stuff, having to work every day, having to follow Dad’s rules. He is ready to hit the road and live large!
Here we see a son who is disrespectful toward his father. He is completely self-absorbed, thinking only of himself. He is unappreciative of everything his father has done for him.
I cringe when I hear teenagers who are about to graduate from high school make comments like, “Man, I can’t wait to get out of this place!” To me, that shows a lack of appreciation for parents, church members, teachers, and so many others who have invested so much of their lives into helping prepare those young people for success. So, to any young person who might be reading this, I want to encourage you: when it comes time for you to graduate from high school, do not be ungrateful like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable. Show appreciation for all those who have invested so much of their lives in you.
The prodigal son doesn’t just leave home; he gets as far away from home as he possibly can. It seems like he wants to completely distance himself from his past. “Home is such a boring place. I’ve got to get out of here so I can see what it’s like to really live.”
The text says that he “squandered his wealth”. Here is a young man who is the picture of irresponsibility. He has no appreciation for the value of his wealth, because he has not worked for it. He probably has not even considered the possibility that his money might run out. He just spends, and spends, and spends, and spends.
And what does he spend his money on? Wild living. In today’s world, you might picture a young man who takes off for Vegas. He buys a big, fancy car. He parties long and hard, night and day, wasting his money on gambling, drinking, drugs, and wild women.
As long as the prodigal’s money holds out, everything is just peachy. He has no thought of tomorrow. He is totally living in the moment. People want to be around him, because he is a big spender and he likes to party. He has money; he has friends; he is living the good life.
And then one day he wakes up and realizes that the money is gone. He has spent every last penny of the inheritance he had received from his father. He is completely broke.
- Now where are all his party friends?
- Now who can he turn to for companionship?
- Now where is he going to live?
- Now how will he even eat?
We can learn some important lessons about sin from this young man’s situation. They are the same lessons, in fact, that James revealed to us in James 1:13-15.
- Sin comes from the evil desires that are within us.
- When we give in to those desires, the result is sin.
- And then sin leads to death.
Think about this situation. This young man’s entire fortune is GONE!
Everything his father had worked so hard to provide for him … GONE!
The wealth that was supposed to sustain him for years to come … GONE!
And there is no getting it back. No do-overs. He has forever destroyed the one chance he had to make something of himself, and he can never get that back.
AND ON TOP OF ALL THAT, HE IS COMPLETELY ALONE!
Why? Because he foolishly walked out on the only people who truly cared about him. He thumbed his nose at them and said, “I don’t need you! I can do this on my own.”
Nowhere to Turn
So, the money is gone, and he is completely on his own. What do you think is going through his mind? What do you think his options are at this point? Well, in order to have money to live on, he’s going to have to find a job. So that’s what he decides to do – he needs to get a job.
What are his qualifications? The only job he ever had was working for his Dad, and he walked out on that job. He has been in the area for a little while, but has not been working. You can’t check any references, because he doesn’t have any. If this young man came to you looking for a job, would you hire him? Probably not.
He does find a job, however, slopping pigs. For a Jewish young man, this is scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is about as bad as it gets.
But it actually gets worse. Apparently his salary is not even enough to live on, because he finds himself craving the slop that the pigs were eating. But his employer will not allow him to eat the pigs’ food.
Think about the sharp contrast between his life back home and his life right now! He has sunk about as low as anyone could possibly sink!
- Is it because of a downturn in the economy? No.
- Is it because he can’t work due to poor health? No.
- Is it because he has been unfairly taken advantage of? No.
This young man has no one to blame but himself for the desperate situation in which he finds himself. And, do you know what? He realizes that. Verse 17 starts out, “When he came to his senses …”
A Change of Heart
For the first time in a long time, the prodigal son begins to think clearly. He finally sees the big picture. “Man, I started off on top of the world. I had a family that loved me. I had a nice, comfortable home. All of my needs were taken care of. But I didn’t even appreciate what I had. I played the fool, and now I am about as low as anyone could possibly be.”
As his thoughts turn to home, he realizes, “Back at home, even the lowliest servant is in better shape than I am right now.” And it becomes clear: “I have to go back home.”
What do you think that feels like, realizing how far he has fallen and what he has to do now? He is probably ashamed. Probably embarrassed. Probably extremely disappointed in himself that he treated his father so badly. Probably more than a little apprehensive, wondering how his father will react when he shows up back at the house.
And maybe … maybe … just a little bit hopeful. Maybe just a little bit excited that his future, for the first time in a long time, is beginning to look brighter than his past.
His attitude is different now, compared to his attitude when he left home. He realizes how wrong he was. He is sincerely remorseful for his sinful behavior. He has no intention of going back to reclaim his rightful place as son, because he realizes that he gave up his rightful place when he walked out. Now, he is content to simply be a servant. He is fully aware of his unworthiness. He is truly penitent.
Unfortunately, it took a huge crisis in his life to bring the prodigal son to repentance. Isn’t that the way we often are? Don’t we have a tendency to become self-reliant, not really needing God most of the time? We shove God into a little box, put Him on the top shelf, and only take Him out on Sundays and “religious holidays”? All too often we rely on our own wisdom, our own strength, our own resourcefulness to get us through the day. We don’t really need God right now, so we just “put Him on the back burner.”
And then some crisis slaps us in the face: we lose our job, or develop a life-threatening illness; some tragedy hits our family. Then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves praying to God and begging for His help like He has been our best friend all along. It’s a shame that people are like that. It’s a shame that it often takes tragedy to rekindle a person’s faith.
But that’s exactly where this young man is. He has been brought to his knees by crisis, and he is ready to make some big changes. So he heads toward home.
What do you think was going through the prodigal son’s mind when he looked up and saw his father running to meet him, and then when his father reached him and started hugging and kissing him? Do you think this is the reception he had anticipated or prepared for? Probably not! He certainly did not expect to have a party thrown in his honor when he arrived back home.
What effect do you think this homecoming had on the rest of this young man’s life? We can only hope that the father’s mercy and grace impacted the son’s heart so irreversibly that he was a changed man from that point on.
Part 1: “The Prodigal Son”
Part 2: “The Prodigal Son (Father’s Perspective)”
Part 3: “The Prodigal Son (Prodigal’s Perspective)”
Part 4: “The Prodigal Son (Brother’s Perspective)“