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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE PRODIGAL SON

Luke 15:11-13 And He said, a certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said unto his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (Also Read Verses 14-32).

This parable is certainly among the most quoted and well known of all Jesus' parables. Since we are all sinners, it is a parable that is easily understood having an application we can readily relate to. If our personal conduct, at one time or another in our life, was not the same as the prodigal son, we probably know of someone to which it does apply. The lesson we learn here is one of repentance - one of God's graces that we all stand in need of. Every mortal being should know this: we are all God's creation; He is our Father and we are His children. From Him all blessings flow. From Him our final judgment will come. All come into this world without sins of our own, but become sinful as our will begins to direct our conduct of life. Some realize their sinful condition, repent, turn back to God, seek His forgiveness, and are restored as heirs of salvation in heaven. Others do not, remain apart from God, die in their sins, and inherit eternal punishment. This is a lesson all of God's children need to learn, and we can learn it from this parable.

In making an application of this parable, the father of the two sons would represent God, the Father of us all. The younger son, the prodigal son, was rash, impulsive, and impetuous; one that readily gave in to the pleasures of the world, and having little concern for life hereafter. Although he abandoned his father for worldly pleasure; although he wasted all of the inheritance he received from his father in riotous living; although he fell to the deepest level of human degradation, he was still capable of recognizing his sinful condition. He still had a contrite heart that brought remorse. Convicted of his guilt, he repented, returned to his father, confessed his sin, and begged his father's forgiveness. The prodigal son is easily compared to the sinners of the world, and specifically to those known in Christ's day as "publicans and sinners," many of who became faithful disciples of Christ, and some that became His apostles.

If this is the correct application, then the older brother would represent the Jewish nation, and specifically the elders, scribes, Pharisees, and all other religious leaders of the Jewish people. As far as we know, the older brother had never forsaken his father, had always stayed by his side, and served him faithfully. However, when we read the text regarding him, we find him self-righteous, self-centered, and extremely selfish. Unlike his father, he was unforgiving, even condemning his younger brother after he returned and asked for forgiveness. His character symbolizes that of the Pharisee whom Luke wrote about that was offering a prayer while standing beside the publican. He prayed, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (Luke 18:11). The older brother could easily recognize sin in others, but not those of his own. For the older brother to repent and seek forgiveness he must first recognize his own sinful condition. This he could not do. Neither could the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees during the time of Jesus' personal ministry on earth.

The lesson for us today can be found by comparing ourselves to these two sons. Are you more like the older or the younger son? Do you perceive yourself as a sinner willing to repent and seek the forgiveness of your Father in heaven, or do you think of yourself as a sinless person that has never forsaken your Father and having no sins from which to repent? Hopefully you see yourself as the younger son - a sinner, willing to repent and seek forgiveness. Possibly in your sinful life you sunk to the depths of the prodigal son, maybe even further. Or maybe your sins are as shallow as the older son having a self-righteous and unforgiving heart. The depth of sin is not significant in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Neither is the number of years that you lived in sin of importance to Him. What is important is that, within your lifetime, you recognize that you, like all other adult men and women, are sinners, and, as such, you are outside the saving arms of your Father in heaven. Just like the prodigal son, you need come to yourself, be reconciled with God, your Father, be obedient to Him, and faithfully serve Him for the remainder of your life. Make the same commitment the prodigal son made: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called your (child). Dear God, as the lowest of sinners, please forgive me!