“Why did you steal from me, son,” said the father to the son. “Have I not given you enough?”
“I don’t know,” the son shrugged. “I just needed money, and you’ve got plenty anyway.”
The father felt the anger rising in his heart, but he pressed his lips together and controlled himself. He had quarreled before, but quarreling did not help.
“What did you need the money for?” he asked at last.
The son answered him without even blinking his eyes, “For a party with my friends. We needed drinks.”
The father shook his head. His son was only 14 years old. Where would this lead to?
A month later something else happened.
The boy did not come home that night and only returned the following evening. He clearly had too much to drink as he stumbled inside and there faced his father, who looked at him with an ashen face.
“Something the matter?” the son asked.
The father nodded. “Yes son… where were you last night?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders again. “Nothing special. Out playing cards with my buddies and having a couple of drinks.”
The father seemed distressed. “While you were out feasting, your mother died. She asked about you, but I had no idea where you were.”
“Mother died?” The boy was visibly shaken and leaned against the wall for support.
“Yes son…” the father said. “You’ll never see her again.”
Two years later the son was arrested.
The police told the father the son was an ordinary crook. He had slept in luxurious hotels but ran off without paying. Now he was in jail. The father bailed him out and took the son home.
The son did not thank the father. After all, isn’t it the job of fathers to help their children? Soon, the son went back to his riotous living. Again, the father felt the anger rising, and again he pressed his lips together. But he controlled himself. Quarreling did not help.
He shook his head. It was clear his son would never get straightened out.
Jesus told a similar story. Not quite the same, but close enough. Jesus told the story about a son who greatly shamed his father by running off with his share of the inheritance while the father was still alive.
Drink, parties and prostitutes in the far country.
No hope for the future. That son was a lost case.
We know the story well. It’s the one about the Prodigal Son.
At least the story Jesus told had a happy ending.
He repented and in the end, everybody was happy. Well, almost everybody. Not the older brother, but that is not the subject of this blog post, so we don’t talk about that.
Jesus told that story to illustrate that in many ways, we all are like the Prodigal Son. We all go our own way, and we all mess up big time.
But, then, as we turn to Jesus and ask for His mercy, He forgives us, gives us new clothes and puts a new ring on our finger. Even though we too messed up like the Prodigal Son.
The father in the story that Jesus told, clearly represents God. Sometimes I wonder if God also presses his lips and is tempted to start a quarrel when we so willfully sin. We will never know on this side of heaven, but we do know that God’s mercy is always, always available, and that is good news.
And was there a happy ending and some good news in the first story too?
Yes, there was.
Not quite like in the story of the Prodigal Son. For the father in the first story did not resemble God at all. That father did not even believe in God and insisted his son would become rich and famous. Even though that father managed to control his anger, he was mostly troubled about his own good name… although his son did get famous.
Very famous, although not in the way the father liked.
In fact, he became so famous that many books have been written about him and he is set up as an example of faith to Christians and unbelievers alike.
What? That horrible son, that drunk, that scoundrel, who broke his mother’s heart, is a role model for my Christian life?
Yes, that’s correct.
That son was George Mueller, who sacrificed his life in humble service to God in the 19th century. That scoundrel built many orphanages which he funded and ran solely on the power of prayer. That son never once asked anybody for money again, let alone stole it.
How was that possible?
Because any man in touch with God will be transformed. Jesus said he will change us completely and is capable of giving us a new heart and a new nature. When we accept Jesus, the old man dies and we are given the nature of heaven where love, faith, and goodness rule.
And what’s the moral of this (true) story?
There’s hope for everyone. Anybody can change and anything can happen if God gets a hold of us. Therefore let it be heard and let us shout it from the rooftops: “You can never be too bad for Jesus.”