- April 21, 2014
- By Carolyn Porterfield, Multicultural Consultant for Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, Dallas
• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for May 4 focuses on Luke 15:11-32.
What does hope look like when you make poor choices and are separated from those you love? How do you offer hope when you have been hurt deeply and betrayed? Jesus wanted those who follow him to understand hope made personal by a loving heavenly Father. So he told the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32.
The painful choice
Parents want their children to make good choices. They want them to show respect and gain maturity as they grow. Sometimes, children hurt parents deeply when they make foolish and destructive life choices.
In Luke 15:11, a father hears hurtful words from a son: “Father, give me my share of the estate.” Those words may not hold the same impact in our culture as they did for this Jewish father. The request was both disrespectful and arrogant. Normally, a son would inherit only after the death of his father. But this boy wouldn’t wait. He wanted his inheritance now, without regard for his father. The father gave him one-third of the estate and watched him leave home.
Our heavenly Father knows the same pain when we, as his children, demand blessings from him and use them for selfish gain. We act with arrogance and disrespect by sinning against God.
The painful consequences
Poor choices often result in painful consequences. The son took his share of the inheritance and went to a faraway land to live the high life. Luke tells us he misspent his wealth on frivolous living and quickly ran out of money.
Sin has a way of taking us places we never intended to go. We stay longer than we intended to stay. The consequences of our choices cost us more than we ever thought we’d have to pay.
A severe famine hit the country. Food and jobs were scarce. In desperation, the son took a job that had to be the last thing he wanted to do—feeding pigs.
Jews considered pigs unclean animals. Deuteronomy 14:8 says, “The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.” Not only did he feed pigs, he was so hungry he wanted to eat what the pigs ate. No one offered him help. His choices led him to rock bottom. He was without hope.
The person offering hope
Luke writes the young man finally came to his senses and made a plan to return home (v. 17). He knew he had hurt his father, brought disgrace to the family and sinned against God.
He planned to ask his father to hire him as a laborer. He remembered the kindness and generosity his father showed those who worked for him. His confident expectation was to be treated like one of his father’s employees. His life wouldn’t be what it once was, but it would be better than feeding pigs and starving to death. He never envisioned his father welcoming him back as his son.
The father never gave up on the son returning home. Before the son ever got close to home, the father saw him coming. How many times had he stood looking down that road longing for the day his son would return? He didn’t wait for the son to come to him. He ran to greet him with open arms and a kiss.
The son confessed his sin and failings to his father (v. 21). The wayward son knew he had disappointed and hurt him. He didn’t feel worthy to be called his son.
Instead of being greeted with angry and harsh words, the father demonstrates compassion, welcomes him home and throws a party. The reception the son received was based on the character of the loving, forgiving father. He exceeded the son’s hope of coming back home to be an employee. With joyous celebration, the son is welcomed back by a father extending mercy and grace.
He is waiting
Is it hard for you to return to God the Father when you have been to the far country and engaged in frivolous living? Hope is found in our loving heavenly Father. He waits for us. He receives our confession of sin. He forgives us, and there is rejoicing in heaven. If you are the prodigal today, run into his arms. He is waiting for you to return home.
It wasn’t just the younger son who hurt the father. The older son also disappointed his father by his hard heart, selfish attitude and unforgiving spirit toward his brother (Luke 15:25-30). This son was blind to compassion. He, too, needed to see hope lived out.
Who in your life is like the son who disregards God completely and only wants to live a life of poor choices? Who in your life shows no compassion for people who have wandered from God? Both need you to be used of God to show compassion for the lost, extend hope and welcome the prodigal home.