By: Danny Wallace
In Luke 15 we find an amazing story. It is a beautiful story with many layers of revelation. It is the story of the Prodigal Son. Within the context of this short story we come face to face with Grace and unconditional love. We also encounter “tough love” that allows our Papa to use consequences of our absolute freedom to bring wayward hearts home.
A father had two sons. One day one of his sons demanded his full inheritance from his father to do with as he pleased. The father gave it to him. Under normal circumstances a person’s inheritance is received at the death of his father. By handing his son his full inheritance while the father was still alive the father demonstrated that the son’s inheritance was always the property of the son – not the father.
The young man left for a life of wild living and luxurious spending. It took no time at all for the boy to run through his entire inheritance. He fell so low that he slept in the mud with pigs. He would have eaten the corncobs that the pigs ate, but no one would give him any. He was at the bottom of life.
One day the boy decided that “enough was enough.” He reasoned that his father was wealthy and even his servants were warm, fed, and happy. So he set out for home. When his father saw him coming he rushed out to meet, and embrace his son. The boy begged his father’s forgiveness and began to explain that he had sinned against him and God, but the father wasn’t even listening. He was excited and hurriedly calling for his servants to bring a robe for his son, and rings for his fingers. He also called for a feast to be held in his son’s honor.
The boy’s brother heard the exuberant celebration and became very angry. He told his father that he didn’t understand this treatment at all. He said that while this boy had demanded his inheritance, he had stayed home and demanded nothing of his father. While the wayward brother was spending money on whores, this hard working son was home serving, and loving his father. He didn’t believe that his brother had done anything to warrant such love and acceptance, while “he,” on the other hand, had served his father well. In his mind, only good sons, who do “good things” should be loved, accepted, and rewarded by their fathers.
As I said, there are so many layers in this story. However, today I will focus on just one. The father blessed both sons. He blessed the one who was obedient, and he blessed the one who was disobedient. He loved them both the same. This story is a living example of what our Papa has done for us through the cross of Jesus. It is also a powerful example of the power and absolute glory of Grace.
When the wayward son felt compelled to ask his father’s forgiveness the father wasn’t even listening. His son’s words went in one ear and out the other. The son was forgiven long ago. It was forgiveness that could not be earned by the son; it could only be given by the father. Complete forgiveness was wrapped inside the boy’s inheritance. And so it is between each of us and our Papa.
In the natural there is another layer that reveals a love that is absolute, unconditional, but somewhat “tough.” The son left his father’s home with his absolute blessing, love, and forgiveness. However, when the son spent all of his money and ended up sleeping with pigs, the father did nothing to make his life easier. He sent no search parties to find him, and no further aid to make his life more comfortable. He was not mad at his son, and neither was he unforgiving of his choices. He simply loved his son enough to allow the consequences of his decisions to bring him home. Once he returned, it was as if he had never left, and as if he had never squandered a dime. This level of unconditional love would have remained the same had the son decided to stay with the pigs. Only the money of his inheritance was spent. The father’s unconditional love was limitless.
It is the same with our Papa. He sets us absolutely free. This is our inheritance. Wrapped in that freedom we find unconditional love and forgiveness. You must know that whether you find yourself in the wayward son, or in the son who served his father well, God loves, and accepts you the same.
Still, It goes much deeper than that. By the gift of Grace that is not of yourself, but the unconditional, and unmerited gift of God, each son is treasured, loved, and treated the same. God’s ways are surely not our ways.
Grace gives man his full inheritance, not just a part. Grace is given with absolute forgiveness for “all” of our sins, not just a few. And finally, lest we fail to understand this and challenge it with doing as we please – ”Grace” treats us the same as if we never left home.
For you see, “Prodigal” means nothing more than, “to spend money extravagantly.” The father wasn’t mad or disappointed in the son for one simple reason. The son wasn’t wasting the father’s money, he was spending his own.
And last, but certainly not least, our Papa wraps the prodigal and the prudent in the blessing, love, and forgiveness of Grace. Why? Because Grace is God's to spend, not ours to earn.