New Insights From the Prodigal Son Story - Comfort to Parent with Wayward Child

What makes a good parent? He must love and train his children. Was the Prodigal Son's father such a good parent? Yes. Besides the love that we see clearly, his training had kept the prodigal son to work for living despite the lack rather than be a cheat or a thief. He also done other good things that we could learn as parents. Parents who love and train their children should not condemn themselves if their child should one day become rebellious. Pray and trust that God's words taught to them will bring them back one day as the Prodigal Son. 
The story of the Prodigal Son(Luke 15:11-32) is probably the most well know. Many sermons have been preached from it. It is the story of the great love and forgiveness of the Father. The greatest joy for a loving father is the return of his way-ward son. "My son was lost but is found, was dead but is alive!". The preceding parables of the lost sheep, and the loss coin are about "be more joy over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luk 15:7" and "there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luk 15:10.

Besides the loving father and the repentant son, some preach about the self-righteous elder brother. Some even preached about the third son, the one who told the story. He is the perfect Son of the Father who came to die save sinners like the brothers. 

Was the Loving Father is Good Father? How do we know?
There was no doubt about the love of the Father. But was he a good father? How can a good father raise prodigal son? 

What is a Good Father? He must provide and train his children.
For a Chinese, a good father must "教养", i.e. teach and provide for his children. Chinese Classic used for teaching the children, known as the "Three Words Bible" (see Understanding The Chinese Mindset in One Minute (Based on Sang Zi Jing)), has the following saying:

Just feed and not teach is the wrong doing of the father.

Teaching without discipline is the laziness of the teacher.

In the Bible, we have the need for training and discipline children as a father. Heb 12:6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Proverb 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Did the Father trained his sons?
The elder son certainly showed that he was well trained. He was hardworking and was obedient to his father (Luke 15:29).

What about the younger son? Did his father train him?

My answer is a positively yes.

Why? He did not cheat but to work for his survival.

Big Reason 1: Because despite his hunger, he never thought of stealing but only thought of working to earn his foods even as a pigs-keeper!

Reason 2: He ventured out to try on his own. May be a bit too early.
Unlike his elder brother who stayed at home to work for his father, this younger son has the guts to venture out and try to make it on his own. This shows three things the father has done for him.

One is to provide a secured and loving environment so that his son has confidence.

Two, the father must have been encouraging him to try out if he wish. The father is willing to let him go.

Thirdly, the father provided funds for them.

Even in today modern world, parents save to prepare a college funds for their children. In the Jewish traditions, parents also prepare funds for their children to start out on their own. I think this is the fund that the younger son asked for and not what some commentators claimed that the money asked for was the inheritance and said the younger son was very hurtful to wish his father earlier death. I offered two reasons that it was not the estate. Firstly, the estate of the father included much land since the father had many servants working for him. The music and dancing for the celebration were quite loud (Luke 15:25) that the elder son asked what was it about before he even joined in. It would take many days to sell the lands and cattle to raise the money. But in Luke 15:13, "not many days later", the son went off. Secondly, the father claimed in v31 that what the father's was his. If the father had given to the son, he could not claimed ownership. Knowing that the elder son was a calculative fellow, I am sure when the younger brother took his portion, the elder son would also had taken his. Furthermore, it was his, the elder son would not complained that his father never gave him a goat for celebration.

What was the sin of the Prodigal son? 
He squandered his wealth recklessly (15:13). He grew up in a good environment and did not understand the cunning world outside. He probably ventured out too early, when he was not fully ready and mature, against his father advice. It was likely that his father offer him to have some master servant to help him along. But he rejected. He was too eager and to proud to go off. He was not wise and did not do proper risk management. It was most likely that his wealth was cheated away and very quickly too. The money squandered on prostitutes was an accusation of his older brother. This claim was not substantiated. It may or may not be true. He was too ashamed to go back to his father after he had lost it all.

Comfort for the Parents - Trained them well and let them go.
While parents provide and train their children, there was no guarantee that the children will always be good all the time. Some children may want to venture out like this prodigal son too early against parents' advices and get into all types of troubles. It was no fault of the parents if they had done their part. They have to trust the Lord's word in Prov 22:6 that when he is old he will not depart from it. The prodigal son will one day come to his senses and return home. Parents can pray for them and just be ready to welcome them back when they return. God's words instill in the children heart will guide them and guard them.

Lim Liat (C) 4 Sep 2012

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