The Cost of Prodigal Living

By Dennis Tucker

In Luke 15 we read of a young man who wanted to live life his way. He asked for his part of the family inheritance and left for greener pastures. Perhaps he felt too confined by his father’s standards. The lifestyle he chose is described in Luke 15:13. The New King James uses the term “prodigal living,” King James and American Standard says “riotous living,” the New American Standard prefers “loose living. ” In today’s language people might say, “having a good time, or “going for the gusto,” or “being wild and sowing some wild oats. As people get ready to go out and live life their way there are some lessons that can be learned from this passage.

First, he learned that riotous living is a waste. “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (Lk. 15:13). The cost of being the life of the party is high. Materially speaking a lot of people throw away a whole week’s salary on Friday and Saturday nights. Money needed to buy food, clothing, medicine, and housing is simply wasted. I have seen people put back the milk and baby food so they can buy the six pack of beer. The use of illegal drugs is linked to robberies and burglaries in our county. The habit is so costly that people revert to illegal means to pay for their practice.

I recall the story of a player for the Washington Redskins. He was on a team that won the Super Bowl in the early 70s. A few years after his retirement he was broke and even had to sell his championship ring. Why? He lost everything by having a “good time.” “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty” (Prov. 23:21).

Second, it separates us from those who really care about us. This young man left his family to go to a distant country. Away from family he probably had some buddies also living the loose life. But once his money ran out so did his friends. “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want” (Lk. 15:14). Here is a description of a man lonely and broke.

The same is true today. The party animal will only have companions as long as he can afford to party. His buddies are not true friends; they are users. Their attraction is to loose living and not real friendship.

Drinking alcohol, using drugs and doing your own thing causes you to be separated from your family and friends. I have seen cases where the husband/wife starts going to the local bar. The kids start parking at the local hang outs and get involved with the drugs and partying. What happens next? Among husbands and wives divorces occur due to infidelity. Children become unruly or discontent with the rules at home and leave. Folks, prodigal living will separate you from those who love you.

Let us not forget that sin separates us from God. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2).

Third, it makes people do things they would not normally do. Most likely this young man was a Jew. As a Jew, swine were unclean. Not only would they not eat pork they would not be seen around it. Now he was willing to eat the very slop the hogs were eating. That is what I call being hungry. If this young man was told before he left his father’s house what he would do, he would probably have said, “never.”

Sin causes people to do more than they ever thought possible. People will steal, lie and commit adultery in order to get some more drugs or have a good time. One of sin’s dangers is that we get used to it and no longer become offended. We must step up to the next level to get that special feeling. If you start on the path do not be surprised at how far you will go.

Fourth, ritous living has a hidden cost. This young man was lost. “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Lk. 15:24). Spiritually speaking a person living in sin is dead even though he is physically alive. “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6). Physically, the consequences of sin can cost a person his life. Recently Magic Johnson found out that fornication has a high cost. Having contacted HIV he will most likely die of AIDS in the future. That simply illustrates a part of the cost of sin. The number of people who die because of drunk driving, anger out of control, murder, etc., are all examples of the cost of sin.

Finally, the only way to make things right is to say “I was wrong” and change your life. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son'” (Lk. 15:21). He did not make an “if” confession. “If” I have done something wrong, or “if” I have offended you please forgive me. He did not have to be prodded. Because he realized what he had done and was willing to admit it.

Today, people try to pass the buck. I sinned because they made me. Even worse is the fact that a lot of people consider the word sin to be outdated. No one should have to confess a sin, it is too negative, is the modern philosophy.

The Bible defines sin as a transgression of God’s law. The fact that man sins cannot be denied. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). The only question is what are we going to do. God has made a way possible for our forgiveness of sin. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b). As we are baptized into the body of Christ we are cleansed of our sins. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7a). The child of God can go to his Father and confess his sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). The result will be a life with God. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry'” (Lk. 15:22-23).

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 21, pp. 643-644
November 5, 1992