Let’s admit it- sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we do some really wrong things. In fact, if we were truly honest with ourselves, we’d all have to admit that there have been times when we’ve done things that we knew were wrong but still did them anyway. What do you think God’s attitude is towards people in situations like this? Well, let’s look at a story that Jesus once told that helps illustrate God’s attitude towards forgiveness…
“To further illustrate the point, he told them this story: A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons” Luke 15:11-12).
So the younger son in this story begins by saying, “Listen dad, I’d like my share of all your stuff now instead of waiting until after you die, ok?” Now even though this seems like a really arrogant request for the younger son to make, the father in this story kindly went ahead, divided up his money and gave it to his sons.
Now considering the kind of attitude behind the younger son’s request, it’s not surprising to see what happens next…
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes” (Luke 15:13).
If you look closely, there’s something important here that you should pay attention to. You see, the fact that the younger son packed up all his stuff and moved out indicates that he was unmarried and still living at home with his father during this time. This means that he was probably around 13-16 years old when this occurred and certainly not older than 18 -the same age as many of you reading this. So watch and listen carefully for this story is directed especially towards those of you in the teen years.
Now it’s clear that this guy wanted to get as far away from daddy as he could, for we’re told that he specifically went off to “a distant land.” While in this far off place, we’re told that the younger son proceeded to blow all his money in what is described as “wild living” according to the NIV version of the Bible.
The term “wild living” here carries the idea of being reckless and extravagant. It literally means “unrestrained behavior” and refers to a kind of totally lavish, wasteful lifestyle. In the New King James version of the Bible, this is called prodigal living and it explains how the younger son in this story has come to be known as “The Prodigal Son.” Other versions of the Bible define this kind of lifestyle as reckless living (TEV), loose living (RSV) or riotous living (ASV),
So life was just a non-stop party for the younger son -for a while, at least. But suddenly the party came to a screeching halt…
“About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him. And no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:14-16).
This was bad. Pigs were unclean animals and totally off-limits for all Jewish people according to the Old Testament Law. If you were a Jewish teenager back in those days, there couldn’t be a more disgusting job than feeding a bunch of dirty, smelly pigs. If someone was feeding pigs for a living, it meant that they had really hit rock bottom.
In fact things were so bad that it says, “…even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him.” The “pods” in this case were the seed cases of the carob tree. On the outside, these seed cases were like leather but inside was a seedy pulp that could be eaten. This stuff was eaten by humans as food only by the very poorest people or in times of great famine when there was nothing else to eat, things must have been really, really difficult.
So having received this major wake-up call, the younger son did a very smart thing…
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man'” (Luke 15:17-19).
What a difference in attitude, huh? What brought on this sudden change? Well in the beginning at least, the world served the prodigal son and gave him all sorts of pleasures -until the money ran out. Once the money ran out, things suddenly changed- the son was now the servant and the world was his master.
Like many teens today, the prodigal son started out thinking that he was going to conquer the world. The problem was that he gave no apparent thought to seeking God or asking for His direction in his life. Because of this, he ended up getting involved in all kinds of really bad and inappropriate things. The result was that in the end, the prodigal son didn’t conquer the world- the world ended up conquering him.
This is like many youths who say, “I know that I should get right with God and everything but I want to live my life first. I want to go out and experience things. There’ll be enough time for ‘religion’ when I’m older.” Hey, you’d better not count on that. First off, there are no guarantees that you will have a “tomorrow” in the first place. For instance, think about these words from the Biblical book of James…
“How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog– now you see it; soon it is gone” (James 4:14).
Secondly, Jesus says, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). This means that serving Jesus is a whole lot easier than those who live to serve themselves or something else. Those people who want to live their lives without God often find that they’ve exchanged Jesus’ light yoke for a really heavy one- just like the prodigal son in this story.