BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables or stories, all dealing with what was lost but found – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The parable of the lost son, in verses 11-32, captures the love of our heavenly Father, God, for sinners and His willingness to forgive and receive back repentant sinners. There are other lessons to learn from this young man, who is so popular that the phrase “prodigal son” is used even by non-Christians.
In this message, I want to focus on some lessons that could be learnt from his life.
The 10 Lessons
1. Don’t be audacious (negatively). The word audacious has positive and negative meanings. In its negative sense, it means contemptuous of law, religion, or decorum: insolent (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It also means showing a willingness to offend people (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
Luke 15:12 says, “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” (New King James Version). The younger brother bypassed his elder brother and went to ask his father for something that was offensive. He asked his father to give him his share of his father’s possessions when his father was still alive. That was rude. Usually, such possessions are shared after the father’s death. Hebrews 9:17 says the will goes into effect only after the death of the person who wrote it.
A father could, on his own in old age, distribute his possessions to his children before his death, as Abraham did (Genesis 25:5-6). But the children were not in a position to demand that. Otherwise, making such a demand would suggest that they wished their father dead. However, Adam Clarkes’ Commentary says, “It may seem strange that such a demand should be made, and that the parent should have acceded to it… it has been an immemorial custom in the east for sons to demand and receive their portion of the inheritance during their father’s lifetime; and the parent, however aware of the dissipated inclinations of the child, could not legally refuse to comply with the application.”
The prodigal son was audacious in asking for what his older brother, who was entitled to a double portion of his father’s possessions, as Deuteronomy 21:17 says, didn’t request. The implication was that he would be denying his father ownership of his possessions while he was still alive! But his father granted his request. Probably, he wanted to teach him a lesson that whoever places his hope on inheritance will end in poverty.
Instead of embracing diligence, the focus of the younger son was on his father’s wealth, which, in any case, he would still be given later. But he was in a hurry. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance obtained too early in life is not a blessing in the end” (New Living Translation).
2. Have regard for your elders. The prodigal son had no regard for his brother by making that request. Neither did he show enough respect for his father. Show respect for others, especially those older than you and your superiors. 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Respect everyone… respect the king” (New Living Translation).
3. Desire your Father’s will, not your own will. The prodigal son desired his own will, not his father’s will. It was not his father’s will to give him his inheritance when he asked for it, but he granted his request. Notice that because of him, his father divided his property between his two sons. Luke 15:12b says, “So he divided to them his livelihood” (New King James Version). In other words, the elder brother, who didn’t ask for his share of his father’s estate, also got his share, but, maybe, not yet handed over to him. Because his father told him later, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Luke 15:31 New King James Version). By giving the younger son his share of his property, the father allowed the will of the prodigal son to be done!
Don’t let God grant your will above His will for you. The will of God is already blessed. Like the father of the prodigal son, God, sometimes, allows us to have our way and our will! This is dangerous.
The Bible says about the Israelites that God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul (Psalm 106:15). Don’t let God give you what may not do you good. Go for the will of God. Jesus said His food was to do the will of Him who sent Him and to finish His work (John 4:34). In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 New King James Version). Earlier, Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). Don’t promote your will above the will of God.
4. Don’t walk out on God and your parents; don’t run away from home. Luke 15:13 says not many days after the younger son had collected his inheritance, he gathered all together and travelled to a far country. Obviously, that had been his plan all along. He only stayed around a few days after collecting his inheritance before travelling abroad! He probably didn’t tell anyone his destination.
If you’ve given your life to Jesus, don’t turn your back on God. Don’t love the world or the things in the world; if you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15). Don’t backslide; keep moving with God. Maintain unbroken fellowship with Him.
Young men or women should not leave home prematurely or run away from home. Rebellious children who do that regret it later. Many of them go through needless suffering. It costs some of them their lives. Proverbs 27:8 says, “A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest” (New Living Translation). If you have strayed from home, return. If you’re nursing the idea, drop it now. It doesn’t pay.
5. Don’t be wise in your eyes. The prodigal son thought he was wise and even wiser than his father. That was why he was too forward and asked his father for his inheritance. He felt he was wiser than his brother who continued serving his father even after he had divided his estate between them. The elder brother stayed back at home.
The prodigal son probably didn’t want anyone to know what he was doing with his inheritance. Therefore, he went to a far country where nobody would see what he was doing or advise him. Whoever is not accountable to anyone is dangerous to himself and everyone around him!
Don’t think you’re wiser than God or His Word. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:25). Obey God; obey His Word. Don’t think you’re wiser than your parents, guardians, or trainers. Don’t be wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 3:7; 12:15; 28:11; Isaiah 5:21).
6. Don’t be wasteful. Avoid foolish, reckless living. The prodigal son could still have done better with his inheritance. He could have gone to a far country and invested wisely. He could have proved his critics wrong. But he didn’t, because his motive was wrong from the outset. Luke 15:13b says he got to that far country and “wasted all his money in wild living” (New Living Translation). The Bible in Basic English says, “All his money went in foolish living.” Anything you waste will soon finish.
Don’t waste the investment of God in your life. Don’t waste the gifts and opportunities God has given you. Don’t receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). You cannot continue in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1).
What you have may be plenty today, but don’t be wasteful. Be a prudent manager of the resources given to you. After Jesus had fed 5,000 and 4,000 men, besides women and children, miraculously, His disciples gathered the leftovers; nothing was wasted (John 6:12-13; Matthew 14:20; Luke 9:17; Matthew 15:35-38; Mark 8:20).
The brother of the prodigal son accused him of spending his money on prostitutes (Luke 15:30). We don’t know how he got that information! But anyone who squanders his money on prostitutes will end in misery. Proverbs 29:3b says the man who “hangs around with prostitutes, his wealth is wasted” (New Living Translation).
7. Wealth not well managed will land one in poverty. This is related to the last point. Luke 15:14 says that after the prodigal son had spent all he had, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
According to Proverbs 27:24, riches are not forever. Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:5). It takes wisdom to manage well the resources that one has to avoid wallowing in misery after having enjoyed abundance. You won’t experience a reversal of fortune in Jesus’ name. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 King James Version). Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables” (New Living Translation).
8. There are always enough people to help a wasteful person squander his resources, but none may be there to help him during the resultant season of poverty. Nobody helped the prodigal son after he had wasted his possessions with prodigal living and a severe famine came upon the land (Luke 15:13-14). All his fair-weather friends abandoned him.
He was forced to go and work in a piggery, hoping to eat the food meant for pigs, but he wasn’t given it (Luke 15:15-16). If the prodigal son was a Jew, he must have been a shame to himself and his family, because Jews would never touch or keep pigs. Pigs were considered unclean (Leviticus 11:7). “Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents” (Proverbs 28:7 New Living Translation).
If you give people the impression that you have enough resources to waste, they’ll swarm around you to help you do just that. “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20 New King James Version). But let the rich lose his money; most of the so-called friends would abandon him. “Wealth makes many ‘friends’; poverty drives them all away” (Proverbs 19:4 New Living Translation).
The accusation brought against the unjust steward in Luke 16 was that he wasted the goods of his rich boss, and he wanted to sack him (verses 1-2). Don’t be wasteful; be prudent.
9. Genuine repentance is the only way out for a sinner. The prodigal son returned home after he had wasted all his possessions and hunger taught him a lesson! He came to his senses, humbled himself, and returned home (Luke 15:17-21). Genuine repentance is the only salvation for every child who has run away from home. It is the only solution to the plight of anyone who has abandoned God.
The father of the prodigal son welcomed him back home and treated him like a son, not like one of his servants as he had requested. He threw a party for him (Luke 15:23-24, 32). There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (verse 10).
It doesn’t matter how far you’ve gone from God, repent of your sins and return to God. God is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). No matter how deep the stain of your sins, God can remove it and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you’re stained as red as crimson, He can make you as white as wool (Isaiah 1:18). Stop running away from God. Whoever comes to Jesus, He shall not cast out (John 6:37).
10. A child should make his parents glad. When the prodigal son ran away from home, he made his father sad. The father said he had been considered dead and lost (Luke 15:24, 32). Therefore, his father was mourning.
When a child walks away from home or takes other insensitive actions, it makes his parents sad. Make your parents happy; don’t be a source of sorrow to them. “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1 New King James Version). Proverbs 15:20 says a similar thing: “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother” (New King James Version).
Similarly, when believers or non-believers sin, they don’t make God’s heart glad. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; He wants the wicked to turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33:11). However, the God of justice will punish sin one day. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Live a life of holiness; make God’s heart glad.
Also, Christians should seek to make their parents in the Lord glad by obeying the Word of God or walking in truth and following instructions (3 John 4; Proverbs 13:1).
Conclusion: What lessons have you learnt from the prodigal son? He might not have had anyone’s mistakes to learn from, but you have his story to learn from. Don’t repeat his errors. Don’t be another prodigal son. But if you’re already a prodigal son, repent today and return home; repent today and return to God.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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