Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Prodigal Son is about pride...our pride

In recent years the tale of the prodigal son in the New Testament has become one of my favorite stories. I have fallen in love with it because of its layers of depth and meaning. Christ taught in parables for that very reason.

As a child I always thought the prodigal son was a story about the youngest son who wasted his inheritance. Later I discovered that the word prodigal means to waste or throw away; and that is certainly what the young son did with his money.

But the parable never uses the term prodigal. And it especially never identifies the young son the prodigal son. We do that. We hang the label and moral of the story on the youngest son.

Yet, what about the older son? As I’ve grown older I have discovered more deep, relative truths in the older son’s life than the younger son.

In truth, the older son is also a prodigal or wasteful son. In fact, he may be the prodigal son. He wastes something infinitely more precious and eternal than money. He stands ready to waste or throw away his relationship with his family.

Like the older son I have lived a relatively steady life. I have tried to do what is right throughout my life. So how do I feel when I see someone else, who has scoffed at the commandments of God, getting the fatted calves and best robes in life—not to mention all the symbolism that goes with getting a ring on their finger and shoes on their feet?

But the story is deeper than even that. The father is, so clearly, our Heavenly Father. He has welcomed into heaven one of his own children who has made the effort to return home. He does not care where the youngest son was. He cares where he is...and that is right where he should be, back in heaven.

Entrance in to Heaven is by choice…our choice. We have to want to be there. God stands watching and waiting, ready to embrace all who truly desire to come to Him. He will run to help us return home.

The young son chose to return and enter home. The elder son chose not to enter but stood outside sulking—nursing a grudge, grumbling over a perceived wrong, wasting time and damaging relationships with his grumblings and grudges, even when no one else was around to hear it.

Finally the father comes to the elder son and ‘intreated him’. That means he begged and implored the son to join them—to let go of those feelings and enter into the feast.

We never find out what the elder son did.

Maybe that is because the story isn’t about what the younger son did so much as the elder son is going to do. That answer cannot be given, for it is up to us to decide by searching our own personal thoughts and feelings. The story of the prodigal son is our story. We are supposed to write the ending.

So how will our story end? Are we nursing a grudge against someone? If we are, then we have placed ourselves outside of Heaven, unwilling to join the feast. That makes us the wasteful son. Relationships--and Heaven--should never be thrown away.


  1. Sister Lynn Adams, I just read your article and I share your love of this parable. Thank you for your insight. Also, Your "about me" paragraph is adorable, can't help but love and appreciate people with that outlook. Take care.

  2. Hey there! (I realize this is an older post) I sort of stumbled on your blog by accident. Bart and I are the new seminary teachers in Sidney. We are teaching the New Testament and I picked out your blog post out of a bunch. I thought it was very good and something I needed to read to help me not take issues with the legalities of the financial part of the parable. Thanks for your insight on the parable, I needed to see it from a different perspective. I guess I have seen myself in the older brother and also in the Martha position and have taken issue. Maybe you could help me grasp that whole Martha thing too. Ha Ha. I find myself consumed in the grunt work that needs to be done (by Martha) and often think Mary should help so Martha can sit and listen sooner with Mary. Issues with Pride, I guess.
    Sharon Stevens

  3. Sharon, I don't know if you remember or not, but we used to live in Sidney. We moved about a year after you moved in. I, too, am currently teaching seminary. HURRAY!!! I love it. I am going to school fulltime and have to get up between 3 and 4 a.m. to get school work finished and seminary studied before class (I leave right after class for school and am gone all day). But I wouldn't trade seminary! It is blessing me in my daily life and in my schooling. Thank you for your comments on the Prodigal Son post. I often wonder if I am the older son, failing to step inside and receive the blessings waiting for me because of my injured pride. As for Mary and Martha, I will write a blog about that. In the meantime, I relate to your feelings about being a Martha and always doing the grunt work that needs to be I encourage you to read a very powerful and comforting comment in John 11:5. No one ever mentions that when they talk about Mary and Martha!