By Irvin Himmel
Jesus told about a man who had two sons. The younger son requested his portion of the goods. He apparently was tired of the restraints of living at home, desired to strike out on his own, and wanted his share of the inheritance now.
The father divided unto his sons his living. The details of the property settlement are not spelled out. The estate must have remained intact with the father in control. Possibly the younger son took his share in money, or quickly converted any property coming to him into cash.
Not many days after receiving his share, the younger son gathered his belongings together and journeyed into a far country. Free at last, free at last! No more parental supervision. No more hard work on his father’s farm. How refreshing this new freedom. How exhilarating to go wherever one chooses and to do whatever one pleases!
Carefree and disposed to live it up, he soon squandered his money in riotous, wild living. He may have met a lot of false friends who encouraged him to spend extravagantly. He cast off the principles that he had been taught at home. In time, he went broke.
An awful famine arose in that land. The young man found himself in poverty. Penniless and friendless, he looked for a job. Work was scarce. A citizen of that country took him on as a feeder of hogs. The pay was not enough to buy adequate food. He was so hungry that he desired the husks which the swine ate.
In his wretched condition, “no man gave to him.” Not one person showed pity, no one offered assistance. He had hit the bottom. He had fouled up his life. He was miserable. The future looked dismal, dreary, and depressing.
The wasteful young man who had thrown away so much looked within himself. Jesus said, “He came to himself.” He realized that the problem was not with others; he saw that the problem was one of his own making. Suicide solves nothing. Blaming others does not set one on the road to recovery. Repentance is the answer.
The youthful prodigal did some sober thinking down among the swine. He reasoned that in his father’s house, even the hired servants had an abundance of food. Perishing with hunger made no sense. He resolved to go back home, confess openly to his father, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” He would admit his unworthiness to be called a son. He would plead that he be permitted to become a hired servant.
Some people in a position similar to this young man while among the swine, cast blame on God. They blasphemously charge their Maker with lack of love and care, or else they would not be in such a mess. Some curse God; others renounce him. Why should any sin-laden soul blame God for what the sinner has brought upon himself?
The young man in the parable of Luke 15 did according to his resolution. He went home. He swallowed his pride. He cast himself on the mercy of a father whom he knew to be a man of compassion. He made no excuses. He freely confessed that he had sinned against heaven and in the sight of his father. He openly stated that he was no longer worthy to be called his son.
Repentance rewards. The father forgave his wayward son. He fell on his neck and kissed him. There was restoration and rejoicing. A robe and a ring. Feasting. Merriment. What a contrast to the scene down among the swine!
The story of the prodigal son aptly illustrates Christ’s concern for the lost and the heavenly Father’s willingness to forgive. Genuine repentance is essential to rebuilding a shattered life. Accepting responsibility for one’s own misdeeds, resolving to return to God, being courageous and humble enough to confess sins, and trusting the mercy of God — these are steps toward recovery.
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