It is the most discussed parable that Christ ever spoke, second only, as far as emotional impact is concerned, to the parable of the lost sheep. A studious man could busy himself for years on end discovering the intricacies of this parable, the underlying messages, the warnings and the lessons that can be gleaned from the twenty verses, which this parable encompasses.
For most believers it is the lost son that is most compelling and interesting to study, for it was the consequences of his decisions that led him to a far off country wherein he became a feeder of swine, on the precipice of starvation.
Although the lessons one can glean from the younger of the two brothers are more obvious, there are more subtle lessons one can learn from the behavior and reaction of the older sibling as well. For a long time I have wanted to do a comparison study between the two brothers, to see their virtues and their shortcomings their decisions and the consequences thereof. We will begin with the younger of the two brothers, since as has been previously stated he is the more interesting of the two siblings.
Anxious to assume control of his own destiny, to blaze his own trail and be out from under his father’s shadow, the younger of the two brothers stood before his father one day, and demanded that to which he felt entitled, the portion of the goods that fell to him. No one was prodding this young man to go out and attempt to make his own fortune, his father had not given him a time limit in which he must be out of his home, it was the young man’s decision to leave all that he had known behind and venture out on his own.
To demand what one perceives they are entitled to, is so engrained in human nature, that long before a child is able to form words, long before they are able to articulate, they inherently know how to demand. They demand with their eyes, with their hands, with their tears and with their cries, until the parents relent and give in. Whether due to their insistence, or the parent’s love for their child, it is true that most often, children get what they want, even if they have to cry and holler for a while. Parents know it takes time, patience, solid fundamental education and good upbringing, for a child to reach understanding and mature his character to the point that he realizes he is not entitled to anything, and as such has no right to demand.
Tragically some never grow out of the entitlement mentality, and live their entire adult lives feeling as though they are owed, they are entitled, and react violently upon realizing the contrary. In the eyes of one who has no life experience, who is lacking in wisdom and understanding, money can be viewed as both the source and condition upon which the fulfillment of their desires and happiness are contingent.
The first lesson, and perhaps the most important we glean from this parable, is that contrary to popular belief, money does not bring happiness, contentment, or fulfillment in one’s life. Fulfillment comes about from the subtle, often overlooked areas of our lives, and some discover this truth well into the twilight years of their existence.
It is unknown how long the young man in this parable harbored feelings of resentment, convinced that he deserved more than wasting his life away working for his father, caught up in the daily routine, but his actions confirm that these feelings existed. He was not content with his place in his father’s house, there was no gratitude nor thankfulness in his life for having been born into a family of means, he wanted something different, something more, not realizing the blessing that had already been bestowed upon him.
The thought of leaving did not come about overnight. It was nurtured, fueled by the idea that he deserved in fact was entitled to a life of liberty and independence, without the restrictions imposed upon him by his father, not understanding that absent of order, absent of rules liberty is nothing more than disguised chaos.
A great many things may have seemed wrong to the young man, as he lived comfortably in his father’s house. His heart wanted for something different, his flesh desired to unfetter itself from the confines of his father’s rule, loving, merciful and understanding as his father might have been. The parallels we can draw between some Christians today, and the young son who did not know to appreciate His father’s goodness are countless, and each of us can see an area in our lives, a moment in time when we acted like this young man.
Although he was legally entitled to his portion of goods, due to the lack of maturity expressed in his hasty decision to come into possession of his inheritance before he was ready, he disqualified himself as true possessor of his inheritance. It is a spiritual principle that is often overlooked within the house of God, but one to which God holds every believer. Before we can come into possession of our promised inheritance, we must first reach the level of maturity, accountability and responsibility that God requires.
Luke 16:12, “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?”
In light of this truth we also make the humbling discovery of how good God truly is. We see the level of grace with which He treats His sons in that He will allow them to administer the spiritual goods of another, even at the risk of them being squandered, that they may become good and faithful stewards of the future inheritance promised them by covenant which is kept for them in heaven.
In his typical straightforward fashion, the apostle Paul clarifies this spiritual principle in his epistle to the Galatians, as he focuses on the need for a certain level of maturity.
Galatians 4:1-2, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.”
It is often a dangerous thing to demand of God the portion of the goods that fall to us, to demand our inheritance, before we are ready to administer them wisely and faithfully. God knows when we are ready. He knows when we have matured sufficiently. He has an appointed time for every one of His children wherein He will give what was promised them. For many believers the waiting is the hardest part, zeal absent of maturity driving them to ask of God those things for which they are not ready. If the waiting seems difficult for you, if it is hard being a servant, remember that you serve in your Father’s house, not at the whim of some merciless master, and only temporarily. Never forget that you are an heir. Sooner or later, you will inherit that which the Father has set aside for you. By laboring now, as a servant in our Father’s house, He is preparing us to be approved workers for when we receive our inheritance.
Impatience drove the young son, and after receiving that which fell to him, and gathering all together, he wasted no time in putting as much distance as humanly possible, between himself and his father’s house. He deposited nothing in the bank, chose not to invest in real estate, put nothing aside for a rainy day, left nothing in his father’s house for his eventual return. He took everything and traveled to a far country, a place where he could dedicate himself to the life that his heart yearned for, far from the prying eyes of family and friends.
Material wealth is easily squandered in the far country, in secret and darkness, where the heart is constantly and feverishly searching for that new and different experience. This far country whose existence the young man discovered perhaps through stories he’d heard, or in his own adolescent imagination, is the irresistible mirage that beguiles those absent of maturity. The glorious promises the far country makes never seem to materialize, for they are a lie, an illusion. The far country remains permanently rooted in the land of fantasy, haunted by the fertile minds of men given to dreaming with their eyes wide open.
The young son saw this far country so often in his imagination, believing so vehemently in the illusion he had constructed, that he was ready to do anything in order to reach it, including breaking his father’s heart. He was convinced that true happiness could only be found in this imaginary place, and he would let nothing stand in his way. With wild abandon he traveled to this far country believing what seemed to good to be true. Yes, life was good in his father’s house, he lacked for nothing, and had everything, but the young man believed in his heart that there was more. Once he found his place in this new country, once he tasted of those things his father forbade, then he would know the heights of happiness and fulfillment.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.