Summary: A fresh look at the story of the Lost Boy of Luke 15


Lk 15:11-24

A preacher was once invited to an old aged home to conduct a service for the residents. He spent some time agonizing over what he was to speak about. He finally settled upon a topic. The talk was focused upon bringing comfort to the hearts of these dear old folk. Looking into their faces, he started his presentation with “You belong…”

Before he could continue any further, a ninety-year-old woman sitting near to the preacher in a wheelchair startled everyone by shouting in her high wheezy voice with both distress and longing, “To whom?” This reminds me of a song released in 1968 by Simon & Garfunkel, “Old Friends,” which is introduced by a series of interviews with individuals at a frail care facility. The last interviewee is asked, “Are you happy here?” and she responds with “It's just having a room, my own room, and my own home.” A place where we belong. A place where we feel safe. A place where we feel welcome. A place we can call home. This is a basic need of each individual, from Angola to Australia, Barbados to Burundi, China to Chile, Denmark to Diepkloof, from Goodwood to Glasgow – from the 1st world to the 3rd world. From students to lecturers, learners to educators, employees to management, street children to business tycoons; it is a need we all experience. Those of you who are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will remember that he lists these factor - home, feeling safe, security - as some of the basic needs common to all societies. Yet, despite these being said to be among the basic needs of humanity, thousands, if not millions, roam the streets without permanent shelter. Vast numbers go to sleep each night without a crumb of bread having crossed their lips that day; not a drop of water to quench their thirst. Images flicker across the TV screen of the starving masses of Somalia; images of children with distended bellies; endless streams of refugees headed on a long and winding road to who knows where; emaciated mothers who strive to provide some nourishment for their wide-eyed, starving babies, but their attempts frequently prove to be futile. Hunger, eyes staring into the distance, emptiness, expressionless faces on the brink of despair.

From Riches to Rags This brings to mind a familiar story. The classic saga of a gentleman who went from riches to rags. A story of a rich man reduced to the lowest level of society due to some ill-advised decisions, unwise investments and shady deals. A story of a man who fell prey to unscrupulous friends and greedy associates. A story of a man who had been surrounded by the most beautiful women money could buy, but who found himself deserted by them, one by one. Is this a product of the fertile imagination of a Hollywood scriptwriter? A sample of the best or the worst of the tabloids? No, friends, a story found in the dusty scrolls of the prophets, scratched out with a quill on a parchment scroll by a doctor of years gone by. A story found in the Bible; a story told by Jesus Christ; a story that might well have been written about my life—your life. The story of the lost boy.

“Jesus also told them another story: Once a man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, "Give me my share of the property." So the father divided his property between his two sons. Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat. He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs. He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing.”

(Luk 15:11-16)

Countless sermons have been preached about this parable. Many preachers have graphically and eloquently related the saga of the disgruntled youth that was dissatisfied with his lot at home. The impulsive lad, young and restless, who demanded from his parents his share of the estate while they were still alive. The impetuous youth that chose to go to a far country—as far from his parents as he could get. Far from the “restraints” of home. Far from the "restrictions" imposed upon him by “unreasonable” parents. Far from the demands made upon him by the “unreasonable,” “outdated” and “old-fashioned” thinking of narrow-minded “geriatrics old fogeys” who needed to “get with the programme.” How often have we listened as the story was unfolded to us? The youngster squanders his money “with riotous living.” vs 13 (KJV) “reckless living” (NEB) “wild living” (NIV). He eventually finds himself with his friends decreasing in direct proportion to his diminishing wealth. And then famine strikes. He ends up with no friends, no home, no shelter, no money, no food, no-where to go but to a pigsty. What a tragic tale! He had had the world at his feet, and now he finds himself with his feet buried in the mire of a pigpen. At the snap of his fingers, people would come running, ready to obey his every command, and now he finds himself in a position where no one would even lift a finger to offer him of the pigswill. From the life of royalty to that of riffraff. From the life of a prince to one where even the plight of pigs was preferable to the pitiful, parlous, pathetic predicament he found himself in! From riches to rags! How could he? we may ask. What makes a person reject the comfort of home – to move from freedom into bondage; from sight into blindness; from light into darkness; from forgiveness into guilt. How could he?

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