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.
As hard as it is to let your kids make their own mistakes, for many parents the next one is even harder:
- Let them experience the consequences of their choices
The reality is that there is a price tag to rebellion. Verse 14 says, “after he spent everything, he began to be in need.” Wild living always resulted in loss. Instead of worldly living bettering him it ended up bankrupted him. Galatians 6:7 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” People harvest what they, but often parents try to intervene and prevent prodigals from reaping the sin that they sow. Too often we try to mop up their mistakes and bail them out because we feel bad. And often our go to mop is money, but money is a messy mop and most of the time it just smears the mess over a wider area. Instead of bailing them out we just make a bigger mess. There is a principle here that we need to pay attention to, after the party comes the poverty of the pig pen. You can’t sow the seeds of sin and expect to experience lasting satisfaction. He ended up with empty pockets, an empty stomach and an empty life. Not only was he broke but he had hit bottom, he was reaping the consequences of his choices. So how do you think the father would have felt? Often as parents we feel sorry for our kids when we see them suffering and so we want to step in. Or maybe the father felt embarrassment, here he is, a well known and wealthy farmer and his kid is living like a bum. Not only was he behaving like a bum but he was working with pigs, trying to eat their pods. For a kosher Jew that was about as low as you can go. It’s not just that this son squandered his father’s fortune he also ruined his reputation. Think of the people pointing their fingers and the groups gathering to gossip. As parents of prodigals we will have to deal with the gossip and the pointing fingers but don’t bail your kids out based on embarrassment. Sometimes kids go of the rails and ruin their lives and their family’s reputations and there are always those self righteous parents who sit around and say, “My kid never did that.” As a result many parents rush in and bail their kids out because they don’t want them ruining the family reputation. It’s easy to fall into self condemnation when our kids fail, we ask questions like “Where did I go wrong?” and while we do need to reflect and ask ourselves the hard heart questions, the truth is we all make mistakes in parenting and we are not the only influence in our kids lives. There are many who are trying to haul around a huge garbage bag of false guilt, filled with a lot of unjustified condemnation. We are burying ourselves under the burden of blame, expending our energy beating ourselves up instead of beseeching the Lord. Instead of punishing self, start petitioning the Savior. You can’t pay the price but you can pray. The fact is, it’s not fair to try and take all the blame yourself. Own your mess but also understand that there are forces beyond your control and your kids have a choice. This kid was suffering as a result of his own selfish desires and the seeds of sin that he had sown. He was reaping the consequences of his own decision. When our kids go through tough times as a result of rebellion parents are often tempted to try and intervene, to bail them out or at least send a care package. But the father understood something that parents of prodigals need to pay attention to. Life lessons have a way of disciplining our kids in ways that we can’t. So don’t short circuit natural consequences. As hard as it is let them reap the consequences of their own decisions. Because we often learn more from our train wrecks than our triumphs and it’s those kinds of things that we remember the longest. Bailouts don’t typically lead to long lasting lessons. Here is the hard truth the father let the son hit rock bottom. You might be tempted to jump into the pigpen and pull your prodigal out but that is not going to be very productive. The truth is that would be tragic because as long as you mop up their mess they will never learn from their mistakes. It was suffering that brought the son to his senses. Running to the rescue would only have led to further ruin. One of the lessons that parents of prodigals need to learn is to patiently wait on God. The problem is that we view waiting as worthless, but waiting is not inaction it’s giving God room to act. One of the reasons we run in to rescue is because we really don’t trust God. But when we take matters into our own hands we get what we can do not what God can do. Instead of bailing we need to start believing. What about you are you trying to mop up their mess only to get in God’s way?