“The younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living….

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again.” (Luke 15:12-23)

It is easy to believe the lies we tell ourselves. Why would we steer ourselves wrong? And yet all too often, we do precisely that.

In ancient Israel, the younger of two sons received a third of the property upon the father’s demise. And it was possible for a son to ask for the inheritance ahead of time. But to do so was like telling a father “I wish you were dead,” since that’s when an inheritance was normally given.
The younger son believed that his father was holding him back, standing in the way of his happiness. That’s why he wanted the money and left home. He thought he had to get away in order to really enjoy life.

So when his life fell apart, he decided he had to go back home. But he pictured his father as the same man that had made him want to leave in the first place: a harsh taskmaster who didn’t understand him, a man who would justly punish him for his mistake and make him suffer for it.

Jesus’ point, of course, is that our Heavenly Father is different than what we might think, just as the younger son’s father was not the man he imagined him to be, either.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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