Prodigal Son

This is a talk I gave to the clients at the Harbor House Treatment Center Tupelo, Mississippi on 01/04/2004. This is a transcription of that recorded talk you may find it a little hard to follow. If you have interest in the subject you will find it fulfilling. I’m going to read the 15th chapter of St. Luke. I’m going to read the first two verses and then I’m going to skip some. I was intending to read all but my eyes are not that good today. I’m having problems with my eyes dilating properly. Everyone should be familiar with the story, even if you’ve only been to church 3 times. You might find it a little bit different the way I interpret it. This is the story of the prodigal son. The first two verses are the most important.They tell the story.

  • 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
  • 15:2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
  • 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
  • 15:12 And the younger of them said to [his] father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth [to me]. And he divided unto them [his] living.
  • 15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
  • 15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
  • 15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
  • 15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
  • 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
  • 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
  • 15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
  • 5:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
  • 15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
  • 15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet:
  • 15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry:
  • 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
  • 15:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
  • 15:26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
  • 15:27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
  • 15:28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
  • 15:29 And he answering said to [his] father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
  • 15:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
  • 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
  • 15:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. End of scripture

That’s the story of the prodigal son. Now let me go to the first part of the verse and start talking there. When Moses brought the Isrealites out of Egypt and took them to Sinai and they wandered around out there–now I’ve been to Sinai and there’s nothing but sand out there, I don’t’ know what it was like 2,000 years ago but–these people were slaves in Egypt. They knew nothing about garnering for themselves. They were told to clean the house or whatever it was. And they were dying. So they created a lot of laws that you and I may think are meaningless. Dietary laws, when to get up and go to bed, who to marry. Moses had a reason for doing that, though. And that was so they could stay alive, so they could make a living for themselves or learn how to make a living for themselves. I learned that from Jewish people, I didn’t learn it from here in the Bible. Many of the Jews still honor these laws, too, the dietary laws and things like that. These Pharisees and scribes were the people that interpreted these laws. And these people that were hanging out with Jesus did not obey those laws. They didn’t honor any of them. When Christ came along and they started listening to him, they started to follow him and the way he was talking about. Now the second verse here isn’t directed at these publicans and sinners, they’re directed at Jesus Christ–they were jealous of him, very jealous of what he was doing and what he was saying. Also, they were jealous because these people were listening to Jesus and not them. A lot of jealousy started this story. There’s three groups of people in the crowd: Jesus Christ, the scribes, and those publician and sinners. Now, Jesus starts talking about the person in this parable. The person who fell from grace. This person is me, not someone else. He’s talking about someone just like Harold. There are principles here that apply to everybody. The first principle I see here is where the father gave everything that belongs to the younger lad to him. The father didn’t say “I’ll give you this if you do this or that,” he asked for it and he gave it to him. That is a principle of letting go, and we don’t see that very often in our place. That is in the twelfth verse. The next thing–this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible–“and there wasted his substance with riotous living..” Now that I understand, he had lots of money and he spent it. The next part of the story that Jesus talks about is one our culture does not relate to – how far this man had sunk down. He was hanging out with gentiles. And you don’t go in the pigpen and work. Jesus is telling us that this boy sunk down very low. And he didn’t have anything to eat ”filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat“.

The boy thought about his situation and how he got there. “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”. This is, to me, where we are. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. ” He did not go to his father and ask for another $10,000 so he could continue his current lifestyle, he went to his father and said he wanted to be his servant. He said he wanted to end this right now. And if you read on, his father put the ring on his finger and the shoes on his feet. This is what we learn in Alcoholics Anonymous. We do not go to AA to be the king, we go to be the servant. We go, we learn and we are treated as a king. And this is the message in this story. This is the key to story, he didn’t ask for more money because he needed more drinks.

Now, they have the party for the boy. And it’s here I get the point that Christ is really slamming these guys “the Pharisees and scribes”. “The older son was angry and would not go in and his father came out and entreated him. Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” His oldest son looks at his younger son and what he has done. Not taking his own inventory, but his brother’s. His son wonders why his father is treating his brother better than he . But he hasn’t treated him better, that’s not the issue. His brother just had it harder now he came home. This is where Christ lays into the people that said those things about him hanging out with scumbags. They were the lowest people in Israel, but when they heard Christ’s message, they saw the need to change their lives. But there were priests that did not want to accept these people they considered low. And, here with this story, Christ is talking to those priests. But we can all learn something from this story. This is my life–I was the prodigal son. And I have been the patient father. I have raised three sons, and I have tried to raise my son as this patient father did his. I let go of them at a point. And if I really look at my life, I have been the son that stayed home, too. We have been all of these things. But when he says “I will go to my father, and I will ask for his help,” that’s where I was 28 years ago today. A guy told me “if you want to stop drinking, go to AA.” And I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, and he didn’t question whether or not I was an alcoholic. He simply said “if you want to stop drinking, go to AA.” I had a lot of work to do before I could get to AA, though. I had to go to a treatment center for 15 days, and I got so sick that I had to go to a mental hospital for 23 days. Then I went back to the treatment center for total of 47 days, and the one thing I learned there was “if I wanted to stop drinking, go to AA.” They said, “you miss first meeting cause you’re too too busy, second cause you’re too tired, third cause you’re too drunk.” If you’re truly interested in your spiritual health, go to your church. But if you want to stay sober and recover, go to AA. if you go to church hang around widows and mother of lost soldiers, the people who suffered to find a spiritual way, not bankers or undertakers. We have a spiritual disease, that takes an emotional and physical form. The doctors can treat the emotional and physical symptoms, but they cannot treat the spiritual problem that causes them. You have to do that yourself. I have been the patient of 19 psychiatrists, and at least 15 told me that they could not help my alcoholism. All they could do was treat my emotional and physical illnesses, and I’d have to treat the spiritual part myself. Thanks you for being a good audience.

Author: harold