In our last few articles we have been looking at the story of the lost son, more commonly referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. We have followed this boy as he made one disastrous decision after another. Those decisions it seems were fueled by resentment over the restrictions of home and a glorification in his imagination of the pleasures of what he thought would be the good life.
He collects his inheritance, coverts it to cash and heads as far away from home as he could possibly go. Why? In a distant country he can do as he pleases and remain anonymous; that is, he can live without accountability.
Things go exactly as planned at first. Let the good times roll. But pretty soon his money is gone and so are his friends. One thing that I’ve learned over the years as I observe people’s actions and reactions is this — people will lead you into sin, but they won’t help you out of sin. So-called friends will encourage you to imbibe in the illicit pleasures of life, but once the bill comes due, they are nowhere to be found. Such is the case in our story.
On the positive side, once this boy realizes he’s in deep trouble, he doesn’t turn to illegal means for personal gain, instead he looks for work, doing whatever it takes to get by. On the negative side we lean something else about this boy. Not only did he forsake his father’s restrictions but he also forsook his father’s religion.
No self-respecting Jewish boy would ever take a job caring for pigs. Pigs were unclean animals to the Jews, both in the physical and in a spiritual sense. While we may applaud this boy’s willingness to do whatever it takes to get by, we have to realize that in this case the whatever reveals this boy’s total rejection of everything he was taught spiritually. The journey this boy had embarked upon in his desire to gain everything, ends up costing him everything. Look at his losses; he lost his family, he lost his money, he lost his pleasures, he lost his friends, he lost his faith and he lost his self-respect. With the stink of pig on his clothes, this boy who once lusted for the good life now found himself lusting for the slop being fed to the pigs.
There comes a time in every person’s journey when a decision has to be made. It is true in life and it is true in our story. Here’s the choice: do I continue down the path I’ve chosen, or do I swallow my pride and run home. To this boy’s credit, after all those bad decisions, he finally makes a good decision. "When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father" (Luke 15:17-20a, NIV).
There is an interesting verse in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. The Living Bible paraphrases it this way: "A man may ruin his chances by his own foolishness and then blame it on the Lord!" (Proverbs 19:3, The Living Bible).
Perhaps that describes you. Like the boy in our parable, you’ve made one bad decision after another. Each time you’ve experienced the pang of conscience and the pain of consequence. Yet, instead of recognizing your responsibility, you’ve shaken your fists at heaven screaming, "Why? God!"
And the reality of it is, the God you rail against is watching longingly for you to come to your senses and come home. But we’ll have to pick that up in our next article.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016 or firstname.lastname@example.org