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God’s Word for You

Luke 15:11-14 The Lost Son

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 8, 2018

The Lost Son

11 Jesus also said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that will be mine.” So the father divided the property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money living wastefully. 14 When he had spent it all, there was a severe famine in that country, and he began to go without.

“Prodigal” means “wasteful,” and it fits well with the last phrase of verse 13. But the parable as a whole would be served better with a title like “The Lost Son.” In the first two parables of this group, the thing that is lost is merely helpless, unable to save itself—a sheep away from its flock, a coin missing on a dusty floor. Here the son is not just lost but hateful. He actively shuts out his father. The inheritance he wants so badly should not have come until his father died, but he wants it right now. What clearer way to say, “Dad, I wish you were dead!” But he finds something even more hurtful. After his patient father, willing to please his son, divides up and gives away what would be the son’s share, the son hurries away. “Dad, not only do I wish you were dead, but I’m going to leave you here and pretend you’re dead.”

He spent all of the money, every last coin, “wastefully,” asotos (ἀσώτως). This is related to the word asotias: “being wild” (Titus 1:6); “rushing down to ruin” (1 Peter 4:4 NJB), “debauchery” (Ephesians 5:18), “a companion of gluttons” (Proverbs 8:7). In Proverbs 7:11, the harlot of unbelief is “wayward” (asotias RSV), with no hope of safety.

This lost son got himself good and lost, spent all of his inheritance, and then disaster struck: “There was a severe famine in that country.” He couldn’t even go out and glean from the fields because there was nothing to glean. The whole land became poor, and then this lost son “began to go without.” He suddenly knew what it was to want and not have his need fulfilled. He no longer had a father to provide for him, and he had nothing of his own.

This is what the choice to commit sin does to us. For the unbeliever, the choice leads to an empty journey from lust to lust, passion to passion, thrill to thrill, until there is no joy. “Do not have an insatiable appetite for any luxury,” we read in the Apocrypha, with an application to gluttony in particular: “Do not give yourself up to food; for overeating brings sickness, and gluttony leads to nausea. Many have died of gluttony, but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life” (Sirach 37:29, 30-31).

The believer, though at the same time saint and sinner, knows that his sin leaves him stranded and panting, gasping for the word of the Lord. “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:13 EHV). The gospel calls us back, calling out with the Apostle: “No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth” (3 John 4). For us, the call of the Lord to return is our delight. In the parable, the lost son will need to fall a little lower before he understands.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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