Parables #3 The Lost Son
The Lost Son is the third in the Lost Parables series, Jesus is telling the three stories together, each ‘thing’ lost growing in significance – the sheep, the coin and now, the son.
We need to first understand that the Jewish culture is a shame/honor-driven society. The primary motivation for what and how things are done is based on seeking honor for oneself and avoiding shame.
So we can see the importance of finding the lost item, whether sheep or coin or son.
Most people refer to this story as the Prodigal Son. And that makes an assumption before we even hear the story, doesn’t it? We are already being told that the son is” a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance”. The poor guy isn’t given a chance from the start!
And the story begins “a man had two sons…” which leads us to believe right off that there is tension between the two. We have seen many instances where there is tension between brothers throughout the Bible…Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Joseph & his brothers.
Jesus uses this tension to capture the attention of his listeners.
Here’s the parable according to Luke 15:11-32. It’s a bit long, but listen to it and see if there is any place where you feel something about one of the players.
Luke would have us think that these parables are about those of us who have missed the mark and are repenting and God welcomes and even celebrates the return of the ‘LOST’. And that is fine. And a common allegory for the older son is he is the representation of the Jews who slavishly serve God in order to earn a reward. Surface assumptions.
Let’s look at this parable a little closer. Keep in mind there are three main characters in this story, the younger son, the father, and the older son. As you listened to the story, which one did you identify with?
The two sons metaphysically are the two departments of the soul or consciousness. The son who stayed at home is the religious or moral nature; the son who went into the far country is the human phase of the soul, in which are the appetites and passions.
So we have a Father who is a little lenient with his younger son and allows him to have his share of the family wealth to go off and find his own way. We have free will, don’t we? We all have gone ‘to the far country’ once and again. The ‘far country’ is our ‘sense’ consciousness…. worldly affairs.
Curiosity is the real motive behind so much of our non-spiritual thinking and living – not badness, not wickedness, not stupidity, just curiosity. What is it like to be an individual person? What is it like to be a separate identity on your own? It is not a matter of is it bad or good, but what is it like, because we are curious about all the possibilities of experience in living, spiritual and non-spiritual. Aren’t you at least curious about some of the non-spiritual experiences?
The father gives the younger son freedom to indulge his restlessness and to satisfy his curiosity, and whose father gives us exactly that same freedom? Divine Spirit, of course.
What happens to the younger son symbolizes all of the typical life experiences and impressions and reactions which result from our trying to live our life off the basis of our central awareness of our self as a spiritual being.
The young man spent all his money having fun! But then there’s a famine which symbolizes any person who is not able to receive any real soul nourishment from things in his outer world. Most persons sooner or later come to this type of dead end in their existence if they have no spiritual interests or spiritual commitments.
He ends up working for a pig farmer of all things. The Jewish people do not eat pork, they consider pigs unclean. Yet here the son must feed and tend the pigs while he is starving.
Poor choices caused him to hit bottom—a reality that many of us may confront at some point in our lives. Yet the pain that comes with bad choices often acts as a catalyst for change, and in this story the son chooses to return home and admit his failings.
The true power of every parable lies in consciousness. The consciousness of the younger son as he works in the pigsty turns to one of total surrender. The word younger is significant. It means a portion of our self which still has some catching up to do.
Beyond the physical challenges, he feels spiritually bankrupt, then “he came to himself”. He knows that he, of himself, cannot solve his problems. He returns to his father, not for a handout, but as a way of moving forward. ‘I no longer deserve to be your son,’ he says. ‘Just let me be a field hand on your farm; that will be far better than what I’ve managed on my own.’
And here, of course, comes the moment of grace. The father faced a choice when he saw his son approaching. He could have turned him away with an “I told you so!” Instead, he rushed out to greet his son with a kiss and warm embrace. The father’s choice demonstrated love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and understanding
He orders that he be robed and jeweled and shod and declares a celebration to honor his son, who “was lost and is found.”
The best robe represents a new consciousness; the ring represents divine love, unending power; the shoes represent strengthening understanding, the fatted calf represents the richness of strength always awaiting the needy soul.
Our new consciousness is strengthened with divine love and understanding and celebrated with rich strength for our soul if we only let it.
God’s grace is not something that we must earn or plead for. It is an infinite energy of love that is never absent, even when we feel most separate from it. It is God’s good pleasure that we move through this human experience, learning valuable lessons so that we return to our Source with a deeper appreciation for the love and abundance available there.
And what of the older brother? Certainly his sense of injustice seems understandable from a human perspective. But it is based on assumptions of limitation, lack and duality. “You love him more than me.” “If you give to him, there won’t be enough (or as much) for me.”
Divine Mind knows nothing of equality, because the very concept of equality implies duality, which is simply not a spiritual truth. Divine Love is infinite; it cannot be limited. Some of us receive it as we follow proscribed paths, stay home and perform the work that is ours to do. Others of us can only achieve our spiritual purpose by wandering freely, learning painful lessons and putting those lessons to positive, loving use. It’s all good! It’s all God!
The older son stands for that part of our nature which has not succumbed to the lure of experimenting with life. He stands for that part or aspect of us which always has stayed close to home base, so to speak. It would contain our sense of satisfaction from our good behavior, all of our good and safe opinions about ourselves and other things, our exercising of very cautious judgment, distrust of experiment and of risk-taking, and symbolizes that part of us which remains obedient to the voice of conscience; but all that he stands for can very quickly turn into a very touchy thing called self-righteousness until it is illumined by Truth.
He could also stand for hidden guilt and resentment. There is a bit of this in everybody, and it needs to be understood as well as overcome. The father does not scold or blame the resentful brother, he only tells him that he has the same rights as the younger son and that they are still all one family. So it is that God’s love responds to every part of our human nature.
The Father’s house would stand for the very center of our being, where we are one with His presence. It is the place in your mind, in your heart, where you know and where you know that you know, where you know God, and you know that you know God. It is that point where in your awareness from which you are able to understand what you really mean when you say “I am and, I and the Father are one.”
When a person is metaphysically living in their Father’s house, it means that we are living consciously. This means we are able to think only the thoughts we want to think, we choose to think, feel only those feelings we choose to feel, want to feel, and act only as we truly choose to act in our life. Such a person is, in that state, in control of themselves and therefore is in charge of their life. They are living from the center of their self and express toward the circumference of their life, all as matters of choice.
This conscious living, we do it sporadically. We are living in and out, in and out of consciousness; but when we are in that state of conscious living, centered and based in the Father’s house, then our life expresses and manifests the Truth of God.
The point Jesus is making comes to its climax in the decision of the son when he realizes the futility of his predicament in his environment, and then the fact that the father totally rejoices when the son, the one who had wandered away, was now returned. Remember that the father’s rejoicing begins even before the son actually completes his return. It says, “While he was yet far off.” Far off base, but now heading in the right direction. In other words, God, does not start the rejoicing after you and I have got it all figured out but when we are turned in the right direction.
This means something to us; God does not celebrate because of our successes but because of our right direction, our right effort. This is called repentance, and repentance does not consist of achieving your goal. It consists of making the effort to change your direction. Change your thoughts. That is what brings the big celebration
The father in the story talks to the elder son, meaning God will instruct and illuminate us, if we willing to listen. We will learn the Truth and be free from that kind of painful predicament that the older brother felt. This part of our human nature can and will be illumined when it is helped to understand that it, too, is part of the whole and that all that the Father has is ours “all that is mine is thine”, says the Father. “Thou art with me always”, says the Father. Every part of our human nature is always included in the workings of the principle of good, under all circumstances.
This parable tells us that we are all free to claim our divine inheritance from our Father and use it any way that we choose. Our divine inheritance consists of all the divine ideas in the Mind of God that pertain to us. Basically, they are our twelve spiritual faculties, which originate as divine ideas.
The reason this story is so familiar is that we can identify with the prodigal son. We-sons and daughters-have done things that we think have alienated us from God. We need forgiveness, or so we think. But here in this story, Jesus seems to be saying that no matter how short of the mark we think we have fallen, God still loves us.
In truth, there is nothing so terrible we could ever do that would cause God to love us any less than God loves us already. Also, there is nothing so wonderful we could ever do that would cause God to love us more than God loves us now. God’s love for us is unconditional and constant, no matter what we do or fail to do. Divine forgiveness does not enter the picture, because with God, the universal Presence and Power of love, there is never criticism or condemnation, so no need for forgiveness.
This parable also helps us to be lenient and tolerant toward all the undeveloped and be-coming aspects of our own human nature, rather than as we usually do, judge and condemn, etc.
Then, if we are able to take that kind of an attitude upon our own struggling human nature, we are that much more apt to grant that same kind of acceptance to other people, in whom we can see this kind of thing being re-enacted. Then we will begin to admire more and more and more the character of the Father, and we will seek to emulate God more. We always seek to emulate those whom we admire most.
Which son is lost?