A Father’s Unconditional Love
Every time I read this parable I’ve always concentrated on just one son. I’m not trying to take anything away from the remarkable event that took place with the youngest son coming to repentance, but there is so much more to this parable than what meets the eyes.
This parable is actually a love story. It is a story of the unconditional love that a father has for his children.
That is what I want you fathers to focus on. In this parable the father’s unconditional love can be overlooked by what is taking place between his two sons, and especially in regard to his youngest son.
Note: The background for this story had to do with the religious Pharisees and scribes, and the tax collectors and sinners who were listening to Jesus speak. In the parable of the two sons, you may wish to guess which son the Pharisees represented, and which son the tax gatherers and sinners represented.
Let’s follow the story.
Luke 15:11-12 “And He said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me. So he divided his wealth between them.”‘”
This parable is called the prodigal son because of its focus mainly on how the young son squanders his inheritance. Prodigal means: wastefully extravagant.
But the name given this parable can be misleading, because this parable is not just about one son, but two sons. It is about a fathers unconditional love for them both.
Like I said – It is truly a love story.
So the youngest son decided to ask his father for his share of the inheritance. By inheritance, the son literally means his portion of all the father owns in life, that is, the portion of his father’s estate that would legally passed to him upon his father’s death.
What the youngest son is basically telling his father is that you are dead to me. It is a completely selfish, self-centered act. It shows no regard towards the father. It is utterly disrespectful and shameful.
By making this request while his father is still alive would mean that the younger son wishes to completely disassociate himself from has father. The only thing that could be even more surprising is when the father agrees to the request.
Note: During the time of Jesus, many of the Jewish people had become disenchanted with the religious system. It was these very people that crowded around Jesus. The Lord ate with them, visited in their homes, allowed Himself to be reached by all, including prostitutes and even lepers. This is the reason that the religious Jews accused Jesus of being a friend of sinners. Aren’t you happy about that.
Think about it – The younger son asking for his share in the father’s estate while his father is still living, tells us that the younger son is unhappy being under his father authority, and he wants out.
It’s no different with some of us. Some of us are unhappy under the heavenly Father’s (talking about God) authority, so we rebel against it. In other words we want out.
If the father denied the request and the younger son stayed, then we must consider for a moment what kind of relationship the father might have had with his younger son.
Think about it – By asking his father for his share of the estate while his father was still living, it showed that he did not care about his father. He would have been there in body, but not in spirit. He likely would have rebelled against the father at every chance he got.
The father would have had his son by his side but knowing all along that the son did not want to be there, and that he probably hated him.
The father might of had no chance of reconciliation with his son.
So what does the father do? He pleases his son and agrees to allow the separation the son requests.
Note: Keep in mind that the younger son was still the father’s son, regardless of the role in life that he would choose. It is here that we see how the wisdom of God works among His own children. Although the love of God never leaves us, yet it is from His very love, and His wisdom, that He allows us room make our own choices in life. Does the heavenly Father know something that we do not know? Did the father know that the son would return. — Just something to think about —
The father shows unconditional love for his son and did the one thing he could do, if he wanted to keep a chance for reconciliation with his son. He gave the son the freedom he demanded.
God does the same thing with us. He gives us the freedom we demand.
In Luke 15:13-16 it tells us the youngest son gathers up his things and leaves.
And in Luke 15:17-19 it tells us that in the youngest son’s desperation, something remarkable happened. He came to his senses.
Just as Romans 2:4 tells us that the kindness of God leads us to repentance, we seen this in Luke 15:18 that the young son’s, father’s kindness is on his mind.
So what does the youngest son do? He returns to his father and expressed sincere repentance.
Luke 15:21 “His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’”
But the father was hearing none of that. The father accepted his son joyfully and the son regained his entire claim to sonship with the father,
Luke 15:22 “His father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet.'”
The father places on the son, symbols to show that his son has been restored, a robe, a ring, and sandals.
And what did the son do to earn it? Nothing of course. And what do we do to earn salvation? Nothing.
Note: Are you getting the picture? The son is a son is a son, regardless of his circumstances in life. This son did not need to earn his father’s love. Neither was this son placed in a lower category of being unworthy of being once again in his father’s house.
The son had done nothing more than to have a change in heart. He made a conscious decision to repent.
Brothers, up to this point I have talked only about the youngest son and the father’s unconditional love he had shown him. Let’s move on to the oldest son.
Luke 15:25-27 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast. We are celebrating because of his safe return.”
This text gives a picture of a son working overtime to please his father, going overboard to show his faithfulness and willingness to work hard to earn his father’s love.
Look at the text it says that the older son was in the fields working. This is interesting, since we already know that this is a wealthy family with plenty of hired servants. So why was the older son investing his time working in the fields? They would have had servants over other servants doing the work.
Is that not what we do sometime? If we aren’t careful we can find ourselves just like the oldest son trying to work our way to salvation, when the work has already been done for us by the work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins.
When the oldest son learns that his father has shown grace and mercy and loving-kindness towards his wayward son, he becomes angry.
Luke 15:28-30 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have.'”
What you see here is a clear case of jealousy, envy, and hated that he throws his younger brother. The oldest son was just as selfish and self-centered as the youngest son was.
Did you notice some of the important details in that conversation? Take notice. I have served you all these years. I have paid careful attention to all your commands, and what you give Me in return? Not even a young goat so I can celebrate with my friends.
Then the father tells the older son, why are you complaining? Why do you feel shortchanged? You always had access to all that I had; you could have received all that I could give you.
In other word the father was telling his oldest son he never had to earn his love. It has always been given to him freely.
Just like the oldest son, some of us do not realize that we don’t have to work to earn our Father’s love (talking about God). His love is always there and He freely gives it.
Like the oldest son, some us never see the Father’s love as being freely given because we are to busy trying to earn it.
If you truly love the Father, the work you do will be out of love for the Father, not so that you can earn the Father’s love.
The father in this parable is a picture of God. All those who will one day be redeemed, must begin as lost sinners.
In this parable the two sons represents the lost sinners of the world. One comes to his sense and realizes he need a savior, and one who thinks he’s good enough and can work his way to salvation on his own.
Brothers, this parable is a picture of God’s unfailing and unconditional love and His desire for repentance of sinners and His redemption of the lost.
Can you see how this parable represents a love story, the story of God the Father’s unconditional love for his lost children.
God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son John 3:16.