What it means to grow up
“And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything” (See Luke 15:11-24, RSV).
The parables of Jesus are stories about everyday, ordinary things. Luke 15 is about “lost things” – a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Have you ever lost . . . a pet? A coin/purse? A child? The parable of the prodigal son reminds us that parables are “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning, and that “even in loss” there is hope.
The earthly story, in this case, reminds us of what it means to grow up. To grow up is to discover that we have choices. The young man “took his journey into a far country.” He turned his back on his home and squandered his inheritance. That was his choice. Every day we face basic moral choices. There are crucial choices of daily living related to our values, of lifestyle, our relationships, and our heritage. The son in this story made all the wrong choices. Such “freedom of choice” may trigger our desire to be God – to defy all authority and become a law unto ourselves. However, to grow up also means that we discover that we have responsibilities. Jesus said, “No man gave unto him.” Ah, so that’s how it works!
Growing up is learning that we are responsible for ourselves and for others. There are consequences related to our choices. Most importantly, to grow up means we must discover that we can find grace in life.
Even when we make the wrong choices, there is hope. Grace is acceptance (and forgiveness) verified by a gift. The prodigal’s father showed grace, and offered him a robe, sandals, a ring, and a feast as evidence of his love. The mature, grown-up person lives with the confidence and faith that there is grace in life. The mature, grown-up person also realizes that grace calls for humility and not arrogance. The young man’s attitude was “make me a servant”, but the father’s grace declared, “You are my son!”
Jesus knew how important this life is, and so he told earthly stories. Jesus knew that this life is not all there is, so he told stories that had a heavenly meaning.
The story of the “prodigal son” is really the story of the “loving father”. We are the sons/daughters.
God is the Father. We are reminded that there are choices to be made about our relationship with God.
The Bible is clear that we are responsible for the choices we make. There are consequences. We have been offered the grace of God. Our lives are neither what they should be nor what they could be until we have made the right choices. We all have an earthly story that we are writing – but it is the heavenly meaning that makes our stories worthwhile.
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.