Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Prodigal...

By Trailady

Having stepped outside of organized religion recently and having spread my wings to further develop my own journey, so-to-speak, I find that I relate more now to the simple teachings of the humble Christ than ever before.

I have a whole NEW take on the story of the Prodigal Son.
The young boy becomes discontent with the way things are going on the farm and decides to leave. So he demands his inheritance, which the Father gives to him, knowing full well the boy is leaving and it may be squandered.

The boy takes the gift and runs with it. He really lives it up! He parties like a rock star, hooks up with a bunch of pretty girls and buys some new clothes. Things go well for a while, then the funds start running low and before long, his free ride ends. Eventually he finds himself with plenty of time for contemplation while feeding pigs and eating their slop to avoid starvation.

It is then he realizes his Father wasn't so bad after all. He was a cocky and arrogant son- thought he had all the answers before. Now after venturing on his own he is truly humble- even willing to offer himself as a servant. The Father does not stand over the son saying "I told you so", "You were raised better" or "What were you thinking?" No, the weeping Father is relieved to have his child return.

How GREAT is the love of God!

I fully embrace this story. You see, I'm a prodigal and so are you. All of us have an inheritance. It is the love and grace freely offered to each of us- a gift that will either be squandered or developed. Some prodigals will enjoy their freedom and learn a lot of valuable lessons, while the more timid, reserved brethren who fear their Father, stick to the routine. They slave away back on the farm gritting their teeth, obediently keeping all the rules. They stifle their questions and cautiously avoid making waves at all cost. The good news is that the Father- who represents God- loves and values BOTH sons.

The Prodigal was not afraid to ask questions, to see how things really are and figure life out for himself. He goes out exploring and tests the waters. He does not come up empty. Instead, he ends up finding the depth of his fathers love, devotion and forgiveness. Guess what? He is not abandoned or disappointed. Not only does the Father welcome him back, he throws a big party to celebrate his return.

You see, it was likely NOT the Father the boy was running from. He was running from the farm, the same ol'- same ol'. Maybe, in a sense he was running from himself? Perhaps he needed a break because he felt he was being overworked, pushed around and told what to do constantly. He wanted to have a little fun and test out some of his own theories about life.

He made some foolish choices and ends up falling on his face in the dirt at his Fathers feet, yes. But his curiosity has been satisfied and he knows forever more, beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is loved and belongs in his Fathers house.

Christians should be mature enough to allow others to question and explore their faith. Give them room to breathe, to walk away and contemplate- even to disagree on certain points and grow. Be gracious enough not to drive them away by talking down, verbally chastising or shunning. In the end, they are the most genuine believers.

The churches, the older brothers are intimidated by this kind of honesty, but why? A sincere person who searches and obtains a real grasp on where he/she stands before God is to be valued... even celebrated. At least in the Father's eyes...


  1. Thank you for this post. I actually just preached on this parable yesterday, though that doesn't make me an expert, of course! A few observations, however.

    You seem to insinuate that the older son was at fault because he stayed home and "kept the rules." This was not his problem, per se. His problem was that he kept the rules for the wrong reasons. He actually tells his father that he "served" him many years. The Greek word used is the verbal form of the word "slave." In other words, he was serving his father out of fear or hope of reward, rather than a loving response.

    You also write that the prodigals "are the most genuine believers." Is this to say that they are fundamentally more sincere than those of us who have been brought up in the church and never sewed our "wild oats"? I think this is a dangerous thing to say. Too many times people like to glorify those who question. There is nothing wrong with questioning, of course, but those of us who have not had a "rebellious" streak are not any less sincere. Our questioning has come in a more controlled setting and forgive us if we like to stay within the parameters of our upbringing. Don't penalize us for believing what we've been taught, after careful observation and reflection.

    There is nothing wrong with staying home with father, as long as we are playing by the rules for the right reasons (ie., love and not fear).

    Maybe I'm reacting to something you are not implying, so please correct me!

  2. Might I point out that even those of us who have never left the Father's house have still had our troubles in the house! We are bound to the Father by his love and even His discipline. Thanks, Shawn, for pointing out that those in the house since birth can still be genuine believers.

  3. I'm glad our Father has big arms and a big house, big enough for all of us and all of our stories.

  4. Forgive me if I mis-spoke, for I am certainly not implying here that ALL of the older brothers who remain behind are "insincere". It is not my place to question anyone's sincerity. (Please do not read any more into this than I intended.) What I am doing is encouraging the brothers who may have questions to go ahead and ask. God is BIG enough to answer.

    I once turned my nose up at each and every prodigal. Who did they think they were after all? I WAS the epitomy of the older brother.

    Now I am the prodigal. The church more readily embraced me as a finger-pointer than as a question-asker. Coming to grips with who I really am (a sinner in need of grace) and finding the courage to ask questions is both freeing and humiliating.

    However, the Bible does reveal the brother who stayed was resentful of the prodigal and his return. I am merely calling for some understanding here.

    I'm sure you would agree that all of us have growing to do, whether we stay behind or go out and question.

  5. PS. In this post, I made it clear that I feel we are ALL prodigals. (Whether we've been in the church since birth or not.) Not one of us has been perfectly faithful or sincere.

    "All we like sheep have gone astray- each has gone his own way..."

    This is why- as Jeff says, the arms of God are big. Amazing love!

  6. I love The Prodigal Son. My favorite author on this is Kenneth E. Bailey who lived in the Middle East for 35+ years. He is not only a scholar but brings a cultural understanding that is important to understanding the parables.

    I dedicated a website to him and his work. If you are interested, you can find it at:


  7. Keith,

    What a great recommendation! When preaching on Luke 15, I always rely on Kenneth Bailey's work. I find that it is is very insightful. I discovered his scholarship on this about four years ago and have been very grateful for his insights. Keep up the good work!