The father’s #1 goal was to reach his wayward son. Children are more important than rules. Raising our children takes priority over adhering to rules so we look good.
“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
A Son Goes Missing
The son had come of age, and he left for a distant country. His father longed to reach his wayward son and give him positive support, but there was no communication between them. Oh, how the father missed his son!
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'”
A Crowd Starts Meddling
There must have been a lot of noise among the crowd as they surmised what was going on in the “Prodigal” household. Young Joe Prodigal most likely had been a wayward son for quite some time to have made such a request. No doubt there was plenty of free, unsolicited advice for Mr. Prodigal as he was rearing this son upon whom the world had such a hold.
No one really knew all the circumstances in the Prodigal household. But everyone surely had an opinion of what Mr. Prodigal needed to do to get young Joe in line.
Have you ever wondered why Mr. Prodigal gave in to this son’s request and handed him the inheritance he requested at such an early age? If we had been there, we might have joined the crowd and cried, “Mistake! Mistake!” But as our Lord told this story, he did not indicate in any way that what the father did was wrong.
Many people will have opinions on how we should raise our children. But only one opinion matters. We must look to our Heavenly Father and ask him for wisdom.
There are many absolute answers. For example the Bible says, “Thou shalt not steal,” and it is always wrong to steal.
But the question of whether to give a son the inheritance is not so absolute. For one son the right thing may be to do this. In another household, it be right to refuse to give the inheritance at such a young age.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
God’s laws are always right. But many times man adds his wisdom to God’s law. God had said:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
When our Lord and his disciples were hungry and plucked enough grain to meet their immediate needs, man said they were breaking the law. Yet our Lord himself is the one who wrote the law! They had added their own ridiculous interpretations.
A Father Watches Mindfully
Mr. Prodigal must have faced many episodes of humiliation. The world as well as his Christian comrades were probably quick to judge his household. But Mr. Prodigal knew that it sometimes takes a lot of cultivating and pruning if the rosebush is to bear fruit. He knew that the world might only see a thorn bush before the roses bloom.
Mr. Prodigal kept his eyes off the crowd and on the end of the pathway. Why? Because Mr. Prodigal knew that he had done what God told him to do, and he lived in anticipation of the day that God would bring his boy home!
Today, many good and well-meaning people will tell us what we need to do differently in the rearing of our children. We must not cast this advice aside lightly. God may indeed speak to us through those he sends our way. We may need to wake up and save our household.
But we must also keep in mind that only God knows what we should do in each particular situation. If we have several choices that are not contrary to his Word, we must seek His will. The world will have its ideas. Other Christians may help us with the answers, but ultimately we must look to God.
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is insist that our children obey the rules that make us look good in everyone else’s eyes. But Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” God would say to us today, “The rules are made for your children, and not your children for the rules.” Raising our children must always take priority over adhering to rules.
Today we may be discouraged. It may seem we have done all God said, yet our child is living with the swine. It may seem God has let us down. What if….
We will never know how much lower our wayward children may have fallen without our restraining presence. We can find peace in leaving the finalities to God. He is the God of all justice. He is the God of incomprehensible love. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15).
Thought for Today
As we look toward the end of the pathway, there is good news: The prodigal son did come home!
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Questions for Discussion
- How do we answer the advice from the crowd?
- What’s more important, the rule or the child?
- What if….
Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted