Summary: Sometimes it’s difficult to go home, but it is essential that we do so.
I want you to imagine for a moment that you have one chance to travel back in time and go back to relive part of your life. And suppose that when you go back, you know everything that you know now. You have all the understanding and the wisdom that you have developed over the years from study and experience. And imagine further that, when you go back in your life, you can change one things. You could change any decision that you made. You could either change some time that you failed to take some action or you could change any action that you took and wish that you hadn’t.
But you could only do this in your own life. You couldn’t go back and change anything in anyone else’s life, only what you did.
What would you change? There are some things I wish that I could change. There are some things that I wouldn’t do, given the opportunity again. There are some things that I wouldn’t say. There are some attitudes that I would change. And I would want to change those things because I understand more now that I didn’t understand then.
What about you? Is there anything you would change? You might say, “Well everybody would want to change something. But we can’t do that.” No, we can’t do that, but there is something that we can do.
I want to call your attention this morning to the parable of Jesus that we call the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
You remember the parable. It’s a well-known story. “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ’Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’” (Luke 15:11-12).
This was an absolutely unthinkable, unheard-of thing in that culture. Such a request would warrant a beating, since it was implying that the son wished the father were dead. In fact, I understand that in all of Middle Eastern literature, from ancient times to the present, there is not one instance of a son, young or old, demanding his inheritance from his father.
But the younger of these two sons decided that he wanted to leave home. Now, the parable doesn’t tell us why he wanted to leave. Maybe he had all he could stand of home, of Dad, and especially of his older brother. In their society, the older brother was in control when Dad died. In their society, the older brother received two thirds of the inheritance. In their society, the older brother would make the family decisions.
Or maybe he left because he was sick of religion. The Jewish religion controlled every aspect of life. It controlled what you ate. It dictated what you could and could not do on Saturday. It controlled everything from your work to your food preparation. You went to the synagogue every Saturday to listen to scripture being read and discussed, to hear rules and laws declared, and to pray. You went to the temple to offer sacrifices. You were expected to pray personal prayers three times a day. There was a rule for everything, and you were required to know and keep all the rules.
Or maybe this boy just wanted to experience life without religion, to experience what the New Testament refers to as the "pleasures of sin." Maybe he wanted to get drunk. Maybe he wanted to "run with the bar crowd." Maybe he wanted to be sexually irresponsible. Maybe he wanted to gamble. Maybe he wanted the high of being the center of attention by blowing all his money.
I don’t know. The parable doesn’t tell us why he wanted to leave home; it simply tells us he did.
So he demanded his share of the inheritance, his third, and then packed his bags. “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” (Luke 15:13). Can you imagine how happy he was when he walked out the door?
He was on his own. He didn’t need anybody! He certainly didn’t need his family! I bet he wore some fine clothes! I bet he was looking good! He went far away from home and all the influences of home. He planned to live like he wanted to live with no restraints, no restrictions. He didn’t want his family to bother him. He didn’t want religion to bother him. He didn’t want to be near anyone who knew his family. He was committed to doing his own thing.
But living the life that he chose was expensive. Of course, as long as he could pay for the party, he had all kinds of friends and he got all kind of attention. As Solomon once said, “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends.” (Proverbs 14:20).