ODJ: The Lost Son

August 1, 2017 

READ: Luke 15:11-32 

This son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found (v.24).

As a young person, I thought the headings found at the start of selected passages in the Bible had been written by the original writers themselves. But then I learned that the headings had been inserted much later to better organise the Bible’s contents. Since then, I’ve often noticed how those descriptive lines, despite not being Scripture, can stick with us and influence our interpretations of the passages that follow!

There’s perhaps no better example of this than the final parable of Luke 15. Some translations call this story “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”, the title by which it’s best known, while others call it “The Parable of the Lost Son”. The title including the descriptor “prodigal” focuses on the actions of the son—how he wasted his inheritance in wild (prodigal) living (v.13). The title including the descriptor “lost”, by contrast, focuses on the attitude of the father, who chooses to view his son as lost then found, dead but now alive (vv.24,32). This heading better points to the perspective of the father, who never lost sight of his love for his son, instead of emphasising his sins.

Since the father in this parable is traditionally seen as representing God’s love for His children, what we emphasise in this story can affect our own views of God. In my own life, I am prone to think that God views me with judgement and sees me as a failure. But that’s the perspective of the guilt-laden son in the story—not the Father. When God’s wayward children return, He doesn’t sit with arms crossed and a furrowed brow, but runs out to meet his repentant children with every sign of affection and acceptance. As unbelievable as this idea might seem, we can trust this understanding of the Father because it comes from no less than His Son! (Matthew 11:27).

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Luke 10:25-42

Read Psalm 103:7-18 for another picture of God’s love and forgiveness. 
When you make a mistake, do you see yourself as a failure (prodigal) or as lost? How can you better remember how God views you?