Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.
Most of us know the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is recorded in Luke chapter 15 and usually we focus on the son who squanders his inheritance.
“And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living” (Luke 15:12).
An inheritance was usually given after the death of the father, but occasionally he would divide the inheritance prior to his own death because of ill health or if he wanted to retire. In this case, there were two sons and the older would have inherited two thirds of the father’s wealth and the younger son would have inherited one third. Both sons were given their inheritance.
The younger son was restless and thought life was better somewhere else, so off he went to a chase a dream that turned into a nightmare. Not only did he leave town, he left the country. Just as we think that we can hide from God, this son thought he could get far enough away from his father that his sinful life would be hidden.
“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” (Luke 15:13).
He made a choice. In hindsight it was a bad choice, but a choice made of his, own free will. He was prodigal. Some of the synonyms for prodigal are: wasteful, reckless, extravagant, and uncontrolled. We aren’t given a detailed description of what the “riotous living” was, but it isn’t hard to imagine. In writing to the Corinthian Christians who were returning to their pagan ways by accepting and participating in willful sin, Paul said:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
As Christians we need be sure that we aren’t joining the prodigal son in his riotous ways by embracing any of the above sins either by participating in or condoning them. As time went on things went from bad to worse. There came a famine. His money was gone, his friends were gone, and he was in need. He decided to get a job which seemed like a good choice, but where did he find employment?
“And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine” (Luke 15:15).
It was a job, but for a Jew this was completely against God’s Laws. This son “joined himself to a citizen.” Not only had he squandered his wealth and lived a wild life, now by joining himself to a non-Jew he was rejecting God’s ways. How do we know that? Because now he was feeding swine. This was abdominal for a Jew to do.
“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7-8).
Not only did this prodigal son feed the swine, their food even began to look good to him.
“And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him” (Luke 15:16).
This certainly wasn’t kosher! His friends were fair weather friends and they only used this young man until he was no longer able to support their way of life. When his money was gone, so were his friends and they left him to starve, and now he was feeding swine. This young man had hit rock bottom.
You can almost hear the gasp from the Pharisees among the listeners. They were very smug about their own self-perceived righteousness. They would have been sure that Jesus would finish the parable by telling what punishment God sent upon the prodigal. They were blind to the fact that the Man telling this parable was God Himself; the long awaited Messiah who told Nicodemus:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
Jesus did not leave this young man in the pigpen.
“And when he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:17)
It took the loss of all he had for him to realize that life with his father wasn’t so bad. Through experience he found out for himself that the ways of his father were far above the ways of the world. The young man didn’t need any self-help book to show him the solution to his problem. He had caused his own problems by compromising what was right and the solution was to humbly return home to his father.
“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).
Do you think that was easy? Pride would have dictated that he should defend his actions no matter what. After all, it was his own life and he had the right to live as he pleased. As it turned out, the life he chose wasn’t his true nature. Verse 17 says, “And when he came to himself…” The sinful life he embraced and became a part of was not who he really was. He had tried to turn his back on his father’s ways, but in truth his father’s ways were a part of him. Sin sent him to the pigpen, but an understanding of his father brought him home.
This prodigal son had learned the hard way that even though it appeared that everyone else was having more fun than he was, in truth, the life of a servant in his father’s house was far superior to the pigpen and fair weather friends. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul said:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
This young Jewish man had yoked himself with unrighteousness, with people who didn’t know God. Christians need to heed this and not become yoked with non-Christians. A Christian can be lured by worldly people into a life of sin that is abominable to God. We need to keep ourselves separate and not yoke ourselves with a non-Christian who can easily lure us into the pigpen. What do we consider entertainment? The movies we watch, music we listen to, and friends we choose all influence us. If our choices don’t glorify God we need to change our ways. Do we make choices that lead us into the pigpen, or do we choose to honor Christ? A Christian should always honor Christ.
The prodigal son repented. He changed his mind about the lifestyle he had chosen and returned home. He was ready to be a servant in his father’s home.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
What joy it was for that father, who had never stopped loving him and watching for his return, to have his son come home. The son confessed his unworthiness to his father, but the joy that father felt was grounds for a great party. It wasn’t the type of party that the son found on his path to the pigpen, but it was one filled with true joy.
As Christians we know that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us. If we choose to go the way of the prodigal and ignore God’s Word, we take the Holy Spirit to the pigpen with us. We can lie to those who care about us and maybe they will believe that we aren’t a part of the riotous living, but we cannot lie to the Holy Spirit.
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
He knows if we are listening to music that glorifies Satan, or if we are committing adultery, or if we are joining in or condoning any lifestyle that is grievous to God.
There’s a second part to this parable, which involves the elder son who also received his inheritance. The Pharisees among the listeners could relate to him. The elder son always followed his father’s orders, never desired to do as the younger brother had. He was superior in his perfection and deserving of everything the father had to give. Or was he? He was angry and jealous. When his father asked why, his anger and self-righteousness became evident.
“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf” (Luke 15:29-30).
This older son seems to have kept tabs on his younger brother. Rather than trying to bring his prodigal brother home he was prideful and self-righteous. The good things he did weren’t done to make his father’s life easier, but to prove he was “holier than thou.” His works were all wood, hay, and stubble that will be burned up on judgment day, instead of the gold, silver, and precious stones that will be eternal. He pointed out his own goodness and was angry with his father for accepting the prodigal back.
That elder son had gone through the motions of acting out love, but he didn’t truly love. The things he did were to secure his own standing with his father, but he didn’t love his brother. We can feel the father’s hurt.
“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:31-32).
The audience listening to Jesus’ words was a combination of both sons.
“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him” (Luke 15:1).
This group represented the prodigal son who had turned away from God. They needed to get out of the pigpen and return home.
“And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receiveth sinners, and eatheth with them’” (Luke 15:2).
These were those who represented the elder son. They were self-righteous men who looked down upon anyone who wasn’t as perfect as they imagined themselves to be.
What about us? Are we the prodigal son or are we the elder son? Chances are we have some of both in us. Do we rebel against God and live according to our own sinful ways? Do we convince ourselves that the Bible is just an old outdated manuscript that is not relevant to our modern times? Sin in biblical times is still sin today. We cannot live the riotous, sinful life of the prodigal and still expect God to keep us out of the pigpen.
What if the prodigal had died in the pigpen? He still would have been the father’s son, but the fellowship would not have been restored. On the other hand are we like the elder brother? When we see one of our brothers or sisters in Christ stumble do we condemn them because of our own imagined self-righteous? Do we try to bring them back into the safety of the Father’s care, or just watch as they descend into the pigpen?
If the elder son had gone to find his brother, would the prodigal have come home sooner? You see, both of these brothers were of the same family, just as all Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all a part of the family of God. When we see a brother or sister headed for the pigpen we need to stop them and bring them back home. Instead of anger at the returning prodigal, we need to join in the celebration.
Time is short.
Tomorrow is promised to no one and it may be the day you are called Home. Whether the Rapture happens or you meet with an accident or your health fails, you need to be in a right fellowship with God. If you are the prodigal in the pigpen, now is the time to come out of it and return home. Humble yourself before God and return to the family.
If you are the self-righteous elder brother who looks down upon his struggling brother or sister, examine yourself and get right with God. If you are one of the fair weather friends who partied with the prodigal, you need to meet Jesus.
Make your decision now. Tomorrow may be too late.
God bless you all,