Summary: Father's Day: The father should be the hero of this parable. He had been watching and waiting with love and patience. Like the father who was looking for his son to return, the Lord is waiting for us to come home to Him.
Luke chapter fifteen contains three parables. The third parable, which we are going to look at this morning, is sometimes called, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Commentator William Barclay says, “For centuries the third parable has been called ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son.’ It would be far better if we were to call it ‘The Parable of the Loving Father’ for it is the father and not the son who is the hero of the story.” (1) This parable is about a father’s love for his children.
In his play The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare said, “It is a wise father that knows his son.” (2) A father who takes the time to know his children is a father who truly cares and understands how to love. In our parable this morning, we will see a father who actually knows his son and loves him dearly, but allows him to go out into the world and do his own thing. Keep in mind, however, that the father knew his son so well that he kept a constant watch for his return, because he felt there was a good chance that he would one day come running home.
To know one’s child implies that a close relationship exists between a father and his child. It’s important for a father to form a close bond with his children because, as we are going to see in this parable, animosity and distance will result in children making destructive or even fatal mistakes. I hope that a look at this passage will make us aware of the tremendous love that a good father has for his child, and of the unconditional love that our heavenly Father has for us.
Lost without His Father (vv. 11-16)
11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” 14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”
We read here about a father who had two sons. One of them asked to go ahead and receive his inheritance that was rightfully allotted to him. William Barclay points out that, according to Deuteronomy 21:17, the father was to leave two-thirds of his property to the elder son, and one-third to the younger. He also states that it was not uncommon for a father to go ahead and divide his property before he died, since the sons could take over in helping with the work. (3) We observe that what this son asked for was not just a small amount of cash, but his entire inheritance.
In verse 13, we see that this son wasted his inheritance on “prodigal living.” The term “prodigal” means, “recklessly extravagant, characterized by wasteful expenditure.” (4) The prodigal son foolishly spent his entire inheritance until there was nothing left. His financial security was his welfare, and it would have made the difference between being fed and starving to death. In other words, it made the difference between living and dying. Therefore, I must emphasize how the prodigal son sacrificed his means of sustenance for some cheap thrills.
Notice also, in verse 13, that the son journeyed to a far country. He separated himself from the care of the father, putting a great distance between them. We must understand that all people are created by God and loved by Him, but many choose to distance themselves from the heavenly Father. They choose to live a life of sin by pursuing every lust that enters their imagination, and when a person does this, they are separating themselves from life; not just mortal life, but eternal life with God the Father. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
It’s imperative for a child to have a relationship with his father. Without that closeness, a child’s entire life may be headed down a path of destruction. The evangelist Bill Glass ministers to inmates in his prison ministry. He has spent a great deal of time talking with them, and he has found one common denominator in the lives of these men that has had a destructive influence on them: they all hate their fathers. Their father either walked out on them when they were small, or they were abusive, or perhaps they just didn’t spend any time with them. (5)