11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Not only do we need to love them lavishly and accept them unconditionally but third we need to:
- Forgive them Fully
The son responded to the Fathers embrace of love with the words, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” because he didn’t feel worthy of the Fathers love. Because the son was more comfortable with conditions he tried to pay for his mistakes himself. But the Father responded to the son’s attempts to pay for his own sin in verse 22 with these words, “But the father said to his servants. `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet and bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s feast! Let’s celebrate!” Unfortunately many of us respond to our kids mistakes by trying to make them pay. Yet here was a father who instead of rubbing it in chose to rub it out. Instead of constantly reminding the son of his rebellion and holding it over his head the rest of his life the father forgave. As parents we have a choice we can focus on the failure or on forgiveness. When we focus on the failure we will end up holding our kids hostage to the hurts and they will become prisoners of the pig pen while we will become prisoners to the past. Today many parents are prisoners to the pain of the past because they chose to focus on the failure instead of the Fathers forgiveness. Are you trying to make your kids pay for their sin, reminding them of their rebellion? The father could have said to the son, “remember that time when you disobeyed me, when you disavowed my trust, when you broke the relationship? Never again will I trust you!” He didn’t say, “I told you so.” The son didn’t need a sermon he needed a second chance. In forgiving him fully the father did three things:
- “Bring the best robe”.
In Jewish culture the robe was a sign of son ship, the father was saying you’re back in the family. While the son was willing to settle for the life of a servant the father made a statement to the world that he was still a son. Many parents make the mistake of defining their sons and daughters by their sin instead of forgiving them fully. Now I want you to notice that the father put the robe on the son while he still stunk. Many of us would tell the son to shower first because we wouldn’t want to ruin the robe. But it’s not about the robe it’s about restoration. The father made people a priority not possessions. Some of us care more about our clothes than our kids, but let me ask you this, is restoration worth ruining a robe over? Where are you placing the priority on the person or on a possession? Is there a rift in your family that needs restored?
- “Put a ring on his finger”.
In those days the ring was a signet, it not only signified whose family you belonged to but it could also be used to sign your name and among the rich it was a sign of wealth and dignity. Presenting a ring to someone was not only a sign of great affection but also one of great trust. Pharaoh removed his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s hand when installing him into office in Egypt (Genesis 41:42). In the book of Esther the King took off his ring, the royal signet by which the decrees of government were signed, and gave it to Mordecai (Esther 8:2). The ring showed Pharaoh’s affection for Joseph and the King’s affection for Mordecai and transferred to them all power and authority necessary for the promotions they received, one as Governor and the other as Prime Minister. The ring placed on the hand of the Prodigal evidenced not only the great affection the Father had toward him but also the renewal of trust.
- “Sandals on his feet”
The prodigal returned home without shoes, a sign of having become extremely destitute because in ancient biblical times only servants and slaves went barefoot. So when the Father ordered shoes to be brought out and put on the Prodigal’s feet he was saying for the third and final time that the Prodigal was not to be treated as a servant but as a son with all entitlements. One other important thing to note is that as the Father restored the son to a full relationship he also required him to be responsible. Instead of coddling him when he came home the father forced him to accept responsibility. One of the mistakes we can make as parents is to allow our kids to move back into a dependent relationship. Often when kids fail they feel like they can’t handle responsibility. Their typical reaction is: “I blew it, I can’t take care of my own life, so I will abdicate all my rights and responsibility. That is why many kids who messed up and end up out on the streets are such easy prey for gangs because they end up looking for a father figure who will make all the decisions for them. As parents we may be tempted to try and control but we will end up coddling which will only serve to cripple our kids. Restoring involves helping our kids to take personal responsibility for their lives. The father in the story forced his son to accept responsibility and act like an adult. This story has a happy ending yet for some of you the jury is still out, you have a child that is still wondering around in the wilderness and you wonder when they are going to come to their senses. Maybe they’ve ridiculed your values, rejected your counsel and rebelled against your authority only to hurt your heart deeply. Then let me encourage you to give your hurts to God because He is the only One who can heal your heart. To parents of prodigals let me encourage you not to give up, be persistent and passionate in praying for your prodigal and make sure you are preparing your heart for the homecoming. You see the story of the prodigal son reveals how God the Father deals with our rebellion. All of us have taken matters into our own hands; we have all traveled down the road of rebellion only to experience its ruin. Yet we have a faithful father who is willing to forgive us if we will just come home. May be today you are the son or daughter living in the far country, don’t let your embarrassment or pride keep you from coming home. Don’t live in the failure come home and be forgiven.