Summary: Two brothers in the family had entirely different viewpoints on the way a situation was handled. The difference led them in two different directions. How they resolved the problem in the end may be representative of today’s situations.
“Two Points of View”
INTRODUCTION: Today our scripture is a well-known parable that generally focuses on the younger son who is labeled “the prodigal son” but he is only part of the story. We start with his journey, but it extends to the whole family.
According to Jewish custom by law the oldest son would get 2/3 of the property and the youngest could have expected to get the remaining 1/3 of the property, but an early request may have been less than 1/3 (Deut. 21:17). The division of the property was normally at the father’s death although some divided earlier and retired. In this case, the younger son initiated the division of property showing his disregard for his father’s authority as head of the family.
The father had the right to KETSATSAH or disownership of a son. Could be what is meant in vs. 24 by the son being called “dead”--at least the son did not expect to be coming back once he left.
What understanding can we get from the different “points of view” brought out in this story that we can apply to our lives today?
1. The Point of View from the Younger Son: Just what is a prodigal?
A prodigal is someone who recklessly throws away what he has. The younger son did that very quickly. He threw away not only his inheritance but also his relationship with his family. When he asked for the inheritance, he was rejecting his father. Then by moving to a distant country he was rejecting his Jewish Heritage as well. He quickly became caught in a downward spiral.
At the point of departure the prodigal didn’t even know what he had thrown away or that he had thrown anything away. He just wanted to get out of town away from his father breathing down his neck, away from any danger of interference from home. He wanted to be independent of his father’s control and advice.
As long as his inheritance lasted, his inner monitor was silent. “Do what I want, when I want, and it’s nobody’s business. I’ll do as I please.” That was his point of view at the beginning of his journey.
He began his downward spiral by heading for a far country where he would be free--or so he thought. Things happened in stages.
APPLICATION: Sometimes we wonder why people will not turn to the Lord even when many people are praying for them--even when people are inviting and encouraging them--why does it not seem to phase them? We wonder, why doesn’t God turn that person around quicker--why do people go from bad to worse and still not change. Why? You might wonder the same thing about yourself --Why is it so difficult for me to respond to God’s promptings in my life? Why do I continue on in the same pattern? The same thing happened to the younger son. He progressed through several stages before he “came to himself” and realized where he was and what he had lost.
Could the father have talked him out of leaving?
Could he have refused to give the inheritance in the first place?
He didn’t seem to try to stop him. Maybe he knew that this younger son had to find out for himself and experience his own pain. This happens today in families and parents often blame themselves when their children take the prodigal route.
The first step downward was the son’s waste of all his resources, but that didn’t seem to stop him. He partied and had lots of friends while the money lasted. It is interesting to note that it was only after the money ran out that the FAMINE also hit the land. Up until this point, he was not hurting all that much, but when the famine hit, scripture says he BEGAN TO BE IN NEED. At this point things were getting worse, and he was beginning to feel the pinch personally--but that still was not enough to bring him to see things differently. He would just go find a job and things would be OK again. He could make it on his own.
How many times do we feel SELF-SUFFICIENT in our need--we can make it on our own--don’t need God all that much. I can take care of it on my own. He was successful in landing a job, but it was not a good job. To a Jewish person it was the most humiliating job he could have come up with--feeding the pigs. He still had his PRIDE--he was not ready to go home yet--there would have been shame in a return home.
How many times does our PRIDE keep us from something better--because of PRIDE and SELF SUFFICIENCY we would rather continue on the downward spiral.