|Part 3 Gods Plan for Raising Children
Session 3 Lessons from the Parable of the Prodigal Son
In this section of scripture we have the parable of the Prodigal Son. I think we can learn some important lessons on parenting from this teaching of Jesus.
11 Then He said: A certain man had two sons.
12 And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me." So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
vs 11-13 What does verse 12 tell us about the importance of being fair with our children? What do these verses teach us about the personality of the younger son? How should we handle the child who wants to do things their own way?
In those days, children would help with their fathers farming or other business. They would spend their time and labor understanding that their efforts would result in a share of the business or estate. But the younger son had enough of farming and wanted to go out on his own. The father could have refused him his share until after he was dead, but instead was fair to his son and gave him a portion based on the years he had been helping out. It is important that parents dont take advantage of their children. If a child has saved up some money, it is important that parents never use that money for any purpose other than what the child wants. If a child is conscientious and saves money, nothing can discourage that habit than if the parents "borrow" the money for their own use.
We can see from this story that the younger brother is an impulsive and irresponsible individual. He wants to do things his own way, and he never considers the hardship his leaving may place on his family or his parents. But in spite of this personality, the father realizes his younger son has to grow up, and so treats him as though he were responsible. As our children grow up, it is important that we treat them as responsible as they think they are instead of as responsible (or irresponsible) as we know they are. When children are treated as if they are responsible, it gives them a more mature attitude about themselves and reinforces all the good decision-making training the parents have instilled in them. Sometimes, children have to be allowed to make their own decisions, and their own mistakes.
20 And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
vs 20 Had the son apologized when the father went out to meet him? What does this tell us about the attitude a father should have toward a childs mistakes? What does this tell us about the love a parent should have for their child?
We have skipped a few verses here where we found out the son had wasted his money on immoral living. But realizing the error of his ways, he returns home. The son knew that he had proven to be irresponsible and now he was willing to be a servant in his familys house. However, before he could get the words out of his mouth, his father ran out to meet him. Verse 20 tells us the father had compassion on his son. No doubt he could tell by his sons appearance that bad things had happened. But he also knew that now was not the time for stern lectures. Now was the time for his son to realize that in spite of his failures, he was still loved. Our children will make mistakes. Thats the way they learn. It is important that they always know that our love for them does not change because of their behavior. The fact that the son felt he could go back home indicates that he knew that he was loved. He did not feel that he would be rejected or treated harshly. Although, he was willing to accept a lower position as a consequence of his wastefulness.
21 And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son."
vs 21 If your child had done these things and come back home, what would be your response to them?
The first words out of most of our mouths would be, "Didnt I warn you this would happen?" or some other lecture. I think it would be hard for us to respond the way this father did. But his love and compassion for his son could not be shaken even by bad behavior. I think he also sensed that his son had a change of heart. The words that the younger brother speaks reveal his genuine remorse.
22 But the father said to his servants, "Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." And they began to be merry.
vs 22-24 Why did the father do all these things for his son? What would this do for the sons attitude?
Whenever our children go on a trip or go off on their own, it is natural for parents to be concerned for their safety. The father may have been worried because of his sons tendency toward self-indulgence. Now, his son was safe. Yes, some bad things had happened. But it was not time to be stern and mean. It was time to let the younger son know that he was loved and cared for. The father was truly happy for the safety of his child as all of us would be too.
25 Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
vs 25-26 Why do you think the older son didnt just go right in to find out for himself what was going on?
I find it interesting that the older son didnt just walk right in to find out what was going on. This would seem to be our normal response. He must have sensed what was happening. Perhaps he realized that this day might come. He know the irresponsible nature of his younger brother, and he also knew the compassion of his father. He no doubt had to pull a greater portion of the load since his brother left. Now, what he feared might happen was actually occurring. If all this celebration were for his brother, he would be furious. But he suspected it was, and so he asked the servants before entering the celebration.
27 And he said to him, "Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf."
28 But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
vs 27-28 Why did the father go out to talk to his older son? How do you handle sibling rivalry?
Sometimes responsible children dont understand how parents can still love the siblings who have proven to be so unreliable over and over again. The older son no doubt saw the pain and financial hardship the younger son had caused on his father. So he was naturally upset with his brother. But even more so, he was upset with his father.
The same compassion and understanding the father showed to the younger son he now shows to the older son. He understood that his older son might be jealous of the attentions paid to his brother and with good cause. But instead of being angry with his older son about his bad attitude, he went to see him to plead with him not to cause more harm to the psyche of the younger brother by rejecting him. And I think the father was also concerned with his older sons feelings as well.
29 So he answered and said to his father, "Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 "But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him."
vs 29-30 Was the older brothers anger justified? What was his attitude toward his younger brother? Do you think the father was to blame here?
The older brother has some good points to make. His brother was irresponsible, and now he was being treated better than the older brother had ever been treated. We can understand the fathers joy at receiving his prodigal son, but we can also understand the anger of the older son. He had been the loyal, hard-working son who had stayed and supported his father and been there for him. His brother was totally irresponsible, but now is receiving the royal treatment. I think we might want to find fault with the father here because he never did more for the older son. But it is difficult for parents to foresee all possibilities. His decision for a feast for the younger brother was a spontaneous decision from the heart. It would have been impossible for him to plan for this. It was certainly a special occasion that the older son could not understand. Only a parent can understand the joy when a son who was feared to be in extreme danger because of their reckless behavior is suddenly found safe and contrite a remarkable, unexpected joyous turn of events. The older son needed to learn to have the same kind of love and compassion as his father had.
31 And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
vs 31 Why do you think the father said this? What was he promising his older son? What does this verse teach us of the importance of being fair with our children?
Now the father addresses one of the possible fears the older son may have had. He may have been afraid that his younger brother would just enter into the previous arrangement and get an unwarranted share of the business after all his wasteful living. This was not going to be the case. The father loved his younger son, but the son had forfeited any right to the business. So the father explains to his older son that all that he owns will go to the older son. He also acknowledges all the hard work that his son has done with the words, "you are always with me."
The older son had been faithful in helping his father while the younger son was squandering his share of the estate. The father would be completely fair in his dealing with his sons. The younger son would have to live by the bad decisions he had made, and the older son would be rewarded for his correct decisions. Our children must know that we are fair with them. We can never give them the impression that one child can receive extra favors for no apparent reason. The father reinforced his love for his older son by disclosing his intentions. When our children sense we are fair, it will go a long way to helping them accept difficult circumstances.
32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.
vs 32 What important lesson is the father teaching about the older brother caring for the younger brother? How can we teach our children to care about each other?
But now the father tries to explain to his son why he made the feast for the younger brother. He wants the older son to feel the same compassion for his brother that the father does. He hopes that he will care for his younger brother. It is our job as parents to emphasize the importance of children loving each other. We have often pointed out to our own sons that after we are gone, they will still have each other. So it is important that they treat each other with love. I think it is important for parents to teach their children this. Nothing is worse than a family thats divided.
This study of Gods Plan for Raising Children © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version © 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers