The Prodigal Son
by Linda Sue Pochodzay Edwards
Text Version | Afrikaans | Greek | Italian
“Why do I always have to do all the work?” Mark grumbled as he hung his shirt in the closet. “Mark, clean your room. Mark, go get the mail. Mark, fold the towels. That's all I ever hear around here! I never get to have any fun. I never get to do the things I want to do.”
Mark picked up a few of his favorite little toys and shoved them in his pockets. While he was finishing up his chores, he had come up with a plan, and he was ready for a great adventure.
He crept around the corner into the kitchen and sneaked quietly out the back door, thinking no one would ever know he was gone. He wandered along the well-worn dirt trail through the woods and finally came to the little grassy clearing near the creek, which was one of his favorite “secret” spots.
“A-H-H-H, this is just GREAT!” he thought. “Now I can do anything I want to do and nobody can make me work. I'll just stay here and have FUN, FUN, FUN.”
He watched ants crawl over a rock and tried to block their path with a stick.
After tiring of that game, he pulled his yo-yo out of his pocket. How wonderful he felt being free!
Then he leaned back against a large boulder and watched the clouds drift lazily by. He usually enjoyed looking at the clouds with his sister Jill. They liked to see the funny shapes the clouds made. “Hey, that one looks like an elephant!” he exclaimed out loud, for a moment forgetting that he was alone. One of the clouds almost looked like a rabbit. Another looked like a big fish. But it wasn't nearly as much fun without someone to share the excitement.
Mark found himself getting tired, and it seemed to be getting darker. He decided to lie down on the cool soft grass and rest. It was nice for little while, but then it became uncomfortable. No matter how he turned, the ground was hard…and he didn't have a pillow…or a blanket.
Then he heard his stomach growling. “I'm getting REALLY HUNGRY,” he said. But, of course, there was no one to hear his complaint.
The woods were becoming darker and darker. He was getting hungrier and hungrier. Then he heard a strange screeching noise. “What was THAT?” he thought fearfully.
“THERE IT IS AGAIN.”
“I know what I'll do. I'll just have to go back home. I'll sneak in the back door. Mom always has cookies in the cookie jar, and I have a nice, soft, comfortable bed waiting for me. No one will ever know I've been gone.”
With fear gripping every step, he ran down the trail toward home. He had never realized how scary the woods could be at night. His family had been down that trail often to go to the clearing to look at the stars. It hadn't seemed scary at all then. He knew he had only a few more steps to go.
“Will I be able to get in the house?
What if the doors are already locked?
I wonder if they missed me?”
All sorts of thoughts and questions were going through his mind as he took the last few steps out of the woods and into his backyard. To his relief, he saw that the porch light had been left on. Then he heard voices: “THERE HE IS! THERE HE IS!” Jill said with joy and excitement.
His father ran down the steps and scooped Mark up into his arms and gave him a big bear hug and a kiss. His mother met them at the top of the steps and joined in the hug, and Jill was squealing and jumping with joy to see her big brother come back home.
“Umm…. Hey, Dad. I know that you have quite a bit of money put aside for our inheritance so that we will be well taken care of after you die. I was just wondering if there was some way you could divide it up and give me my portion now. You see, I'm tired of living here. I have BIG plans for the future. I want to go away from home and live a good life. I want to make a name for myself. And I want to do it all while I'm still young enough to enjoy it. I don't want to have to wait until I'm old and you die. What do you think? Can you do that for me?”
With shock and disbelief, the father looked sorrowfully at his younger son. The question his son had just asked hurt him terribly. Of course, he didn't want him to leave home. He loved his son dearly and would miss him greatly. But because of that great love, and because he didn't want to hurt and disappoint his son, he made arrangements for the inheritance to be divided while he was still living.
A few days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings, took his money, and started on his journey to a country far away. He made a lot of friends and was having a grand time. Almost every night there was a party somewhere. Since he had so much money from the inheritance, he treated his friends with nice dinners and fancy clothes. It seemed that EVERYBODY loved him. And it seemed like the money would never run out....
But it did!
One day he realized he was out of money. ALL the inheritance was GONE. “Well, that's okay,” he thought. “I still have lots of friends, and they will still let me go to their parties.” He did go to a few more parties, but when his friends found out that he couldn't help pay for the expenses, they quit inviting him. Then his friends deserted him altogether.
“We don't want to hang around with THAT loser,” they said to one another. “Yeah, he has become a real bum.”
Penniless, friendless, and homeless, he decided he had to get a job. He looked and looked but there were just no jobs available for a young man who had grown up in a wealthy home and had no skills. Finally he walked up to a farmer. “With all that land and all those animals, there must be SOMETHING I can do for you to earn some money,” he begged.
The farmer felt sorry for the young man and finally said, “Well, if you will feed the pigs for me, I can let you sleep in the barn.” The younger son was desperate, and even though feeding pigs was a dirty, despicable job, he decided to do it.
Now, all he was getting out of this deal was a place to sleep and very little money. He wasn't earning enough to even feed himself well. He found himself getting hungrier and hungrier. Even the PIGS were eating better than he was.
He began to think about his father and his home. The servants at his father's house were well taken care of. They had comfortable beds and ate good food.
Suddenly, he had a thought.
“I know what I'll do! I'll go back to my father's house. I can't go back and ask for my old room, and I can't ask to live as part of the family, because I dishonored my father by taking the inheritance. BUT…maybe he will feel sorry for me, and let me have a job and live with the servants. Even THAT would be better than living in a cold, drafty barn, feeding pigs!”
The son started on his journey home. “I wonder if he will take me back? I am so dirty and clothed in rags. I wonder if he will even know who I am?”
It was a long hard journey as he was trudging along, trying to think of what to say when he finally arrived at his father's house. He knew the road so well. He knew he was getting closer. Just around the corner, he would be able to see the walls of the city. With fearful anxious steps he continued on.
Then with surprise and amazement, he saw his father. Not only was his father there outside the city gate, he was running toward him! He recognized him! His father grabbed him with wide-open arms and hugged him. Then he kissed him. He was so happy to see his son!
He tried to apologize to his father, saying he was terribly sorry for dishonoring him and asking if he could please just have a job like one of the servants. But his father wasn't even listening. He was so thrilled to have his son back home, he began shouting orders to his servants who had gathered around.
“Bring the best robe, and put it on him!” he said to one servant.
Turning to another he said, “Put a ring on his hand…and get a pair of shoes to put on his feet!”
The servants were buzzing with excitement, trying to obey all the orders of their master. The crowd was getting bigger, as more and more people heard that the son who ran away had finally come home.
The father had to shout even louder above the roar of the crowd. “Go, find the fattest calf we have, kill it, and prepare it for roasting. My son who was lost is found! WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A PARTY AND EVERYONE IS INVITED!” The roar of the crowd was becoming noisier as more people heard the good news and joined in the excitement on their way to the big celebration feast. There was happy music, singing, and dancing. Everyone was having a great time.
Everyone except…the older brother.
He heard the crowd and all the noise and called to one of the servants: “Hey, what's happening? What is all the commotion about?”
“Why, haven't you heard?” he asked in surprise. “Your brother who has been gone so long has returned, and your father is having a big party!”
This news did NOT make the older brother happy at all! He was jealous and angry. After all, HE was the one that stayed home. HE helped run the ranch. HE honored his father. HE did what was good and right. If ANYBODY deserved a party, it would be HIM, NOT his younger brother who wasted his inheritance and turned into a dirty bum!
Immediately the older brother went to have a talk with his father. “This just isn't right!” he said. “I've been here all along helping you anytime you needed it, but you never gave ME a party.”
“OH, MY SON!” his father exclaimed. “YES, you have been here all along, and everything I have belongs to YOU. Anytime you wanted a celebration, all you had to do was ask. I would have gladly given you a party.
“But now, please join in our happiness. Let's go, celebrate because your brother has finally come home.”
Our Heavenly Father's love follows us wherever we may go.
1. Why did the father agree to let the younger son have his inheritance?
2. Why did the father accept the son back into the family after he had acted so badly?
3. What was the reaction of the older son concerning his brother returning home?
A VERSE TO LEARN
“…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).
Do you agree that the younger brother was very selfish? Why? When did he realize that he had made a huge mistake? Was it the right thing for him to do to go back to his father? Do you think he was deserving of his father’s love? Did his father love him despite everything he had done wrong? Have you ever been selfish and then realized that you were wrong? What did you do about it? Were you willing to ask forgiveness?
What did the older brother do wrong? Did he think he deserved his father’s love more that the younger brother? Did he think his father favored his younger brother more than him because of the feast? Was that true? Do you think the older brother needed to forgive his younger brother as well? Have you ever felt that your siblings were favored above you by your parents or your classmates favored above you by your teacher? Is there someone you need to forgive?
How did the father show love to the younger brother? And to the older brother? Do you think they needed to feel deserving of their father’s love? Do you think the father wanted them to love each other and live good, unselfish and forgiving lives?
[After discussion:] Selfish sin can seem to be fun in the beginning, but it always ends in disaster. When you suffer the consequences of sin, learn to be as wise as the prodigal son by quickly seeking your heavenly Father’s forgiveness.
Know that God loves you very much, no matter what bad or good things you do. Of course, it pleases Him when you don't sin, but when you do, He anxiously watches and waits for you to come back to Him, repent and submit to Him as your Lord and Savior. Are you willing to do that? Then your heavenly Father and the angels in heaven will rejoice and you will experience his blessing!
Dear God, thank You for loving me so much that
even when I do wrong and do not honor You,
your love never runs out and You are willing to forgive me.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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