The Parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded by Luke in Luke 12:11-32 of the Bible, is one that is known worldwide. The central theme of this story is one that can be applied many ways. Because of this, many religions have some form of this story in their religious text. This story tells of how a father s love for his children will always accept them no matter what they have done. Whether this love is a religious symbol or not is up to the reader. Moreover, he will receive them with open arms and rejoice because they were once lost, but now are found.
This story was told by Jesus as a parable, a story that tells a lesson by using an example. Jesus used parables in order to more clearly illustrate his point. As a parable serves as an example, there are many symbols used in a parable. In order to fully understand this story s central theme, you must first know several of the main symbols in the story.
First, there is the father, who represents God or some other type of controlling deity. Second, the older brother symbolizes Christians or other followers who have stood strong in their religious values. The story also tells of a famine, which represents the hard times that people face in life. In addition, and probably most importantly, there is the younger son, who stands for those who have strayed from what is considered righteous in their religion.
The youngest son is first described in the title of the story as prodigal. When someone is prodigal, he is wasteful and lives a lavish lifestyle. This indicates that the son is someone who likes to have fun, no matter what the cost. The younger son, most likely tired of life on the farm and anxious to move into the lively city, asks his father for his share of the inheritance so that he may pursue a life elsewhere. This further develops the idea that the younger son is foolish. His immaturity is further shown by the fact that he is the younger son, thus na ve in his ways.
The younger son left his father and older brother to move to the city. Once there, the younger son wasted his substance with riotous living (207). After spending all of his money, a giant famine swept over the country and he became desperately poor. The young man, having wasted his money, had to take a job feeding swine. When the young man became a lowly hog feeder, I believe he had hit rock bottom. If someone goes from a lifestyle of wealth, to slopping the pigs, it would be painfully obvious that something has gone terribly wrong in their life. At this point in the story, the younger son realizes the terrible mistake he has made and undergoes a significant character change. He comes to realize that it is better to swallow his pride and return to his father as a servant, than to starve to death. I discuss the younger son because it is essential to understand what he went through in order to fully appreciate the stories overall theme.
When he returns home, his father rushes out to meet him. This is shown on page 207 by the quote, 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. When the father sees his son from across the fields, he runs out to meet him, even after all the foolish things the son has done. This is important because by running to his son, the father is showing that he does not care what occurred in the past. He cares only that his son is now home. The passage also tells that he fell and kissed his feet. This shows that the father still loves and respects his son. This is a main part of the theme, that a father will welcome a child warmly and without prejudice. The father did not stop there, however. He ordered that the best calf be killed and the finest clothing be brought out for his son as well as placing the largest rings on his fingers.
The story, however, does not stop here. The older son came home from working in the fields and discovered what was happening. The oldest son was outraged by his father s actions. This is shown on page 207, And he was angry, and would not in.” He could not understand how his father could sacrifice such fine things for someone who had betrayed their family. His anger is more than understandable. Someone who had stayed home and helped work on the family farm is certainly more deserving of such lavish gifts than someone who had decided to take their share of the family money and foolishly squander it.
The father tells the older son that since his younger brother was once considered lost forever, that when he returned, it was an occasion to be celebrated. This is the central theme, when you hit rock bottom and you pray that God will help you out of a situation, he will not only be there for you, but will welcome you back to him with open arms, as the father did for the younger son. This universal message has been told in many different ways, however, the most recognizable example of it is this story.