What does the Bible say about the Prodigal Son?
Most people have heard of the prodigal son, but not everyone knows the definition of prodigal. A child who is wasteful, reckless, and extravagant creates a prodigal child. Essentially, they choose to live lavishly without a care for the consequences of their life, and it’s nearly impossible to reign them in to handle their resources. Unfortunately, with the vast amount of options for shopping, spending, and methods of living an expensive lifestyle, far too many children these days turn into prodigal children.
Think of the average teenager today; they cannot cope without designer clothing and a fancy coffee in their hand. While most children go through stages of maturity, some do not, and they leave a wake of waste in their path. Find out the parable of the prodigal son resembles the world today and find hope for parents of prodigal children.
Christian quotes about the Prodigal Son
“The difference between mercy and grace? Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” Max Lucado
“We want to be saved from our misery, but not from our sin. We want to sin without misery, just as the prodigal son wanted inheritance without the father. The foremost spiritual law of the physical universe is that this hope can never be realized. Sin always accompanies misery. There is no victimless crime, and all creation is subject to decay because of humanity’s rebellion from God.” R. C. Sproul
“I have come to know a God who has a soft spot for rebels, who recruits people like the adulterer David, the whiner Jeremiah, the traitor Peter, and the human-rights abuser Saul of Tarsus. I have come to know a God whose Son made prodigals the heroes of his stories and the trophies of his ministry.” Philip Yancey
“The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?” C.S. Lewis
What is the meaning of the Prodigal Son?
The Prodigal son tells the story of a wealthy father with two sons. As the story unfolds, we learn the younger son, the prodigal son, wants his father to distribute his well early so the son can leave and live off his inheritance. The son left home to squander his father’s money, but famine in the land quickly depletes his money. With no means to support himself, the son takes a job feeding pigs when he remembers his father’s abundance and decides to go home.
When he goes home, it’s with a changed heart. Filled with repentance, he wants to live as a servant in his father’s home because he knows he is no longer worthy of living like a son after his past behavior. Instead, his father welcomes his lost son with a hug, a kiss, and a feast! His son had come home before he was lost to the wickedness of the world, but now he has come home to where he belongs.
Now when the father calls his older son in from the fields to help prepare the welcome home party, the older son refuses. He never left his father or asked for his inheritance early, nor did he squander his life. Instead, the older son lived a mature life working in the fields and serving his father. He has seen the hurt and pain caused by his brother’s wasteful, extravagant life and believes he is the superior son. The father reminds his oldest child that his brother was dead to the family, off to live a prodigal lifestyle but has come home, and this is worth celebrating and rejoicing.
The parable’s forgiving father symbolizes God, who forgives those sinners who turn away from the wicked world and instead turn to Him. The younger son represents the lost, and the older sibling depicts the self-righteousness. This parable focuses on the restoration of a believer’s connection with the Father, not the conversion of a sinner. In this parable, the father’s goodness overshadows the son’s sins, as the prodigal son repents because of his father’s kindness (Romans 2:4). We also learn the importance of the heart and an attitude of love.
1. Luke 15:1 (ESV) “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.”
2. Luke 15:32 (NIV) “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
3. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
4. Luke 15:10 (NKJV) “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
6. Acts 16:31 “And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
7. Romans 2:4 “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
8. Exodus 34:6 “Then the LORD passed in front of Moses and called out: “The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and faithfulness.”
9. Psalm 31:19 “How great is Your goodness which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have bestowed before the sons of men on those who take refuge in You!”
10. Romans 9:23 “What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the vessels of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory.”
The Prodigal Son and forgiveness
The Pharisees in the Bible and many people today believe they must do work to gain salvation when in fact, the only thing we need to do is turn away from sin (Ephesians 2:8-9). They hoped to get blessings from God and earn eternal life by being good similar to the older son in the parable. However, they did not understand God’s grace, and they did not know what it meant to forgive.
So, it was not what they did that stopped them from growing, but what they did not do. This is what turned them away from God (Matthew 23:23-24). They were angry when Jesus accepted and forgave undeserving people because they did not see that they, too, needed a Savior. In this parable, we see a clear depiction of the younger son living a life of sin and gluttony before he turned away from the ways of the world to return to his father’s arms.
The way the father took the son back into the family is a picture of how we should treat sinners who say they are sorry (Luke 17:3; James 5:19-20). In this short story, we can understand the meaning that we all fall short of the Glory of God and need Him and not the world for salvation (Romans 3:23). We are saved only by God’s grace, not by the good things we do (Ephesians 2:9). Jesus shared this parable to teach us how willing God is to forgive those who return to His open arms.
11. Luke 15:22-24 (KJV) “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, 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.”
12. Romans 3:23-25 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”
13. Luke 17:3 “So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”
14. James 5:19-20 “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
15. Luke 15:1-2 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
16. Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
17. Colossians 3:13 “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
19. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
20. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
21. Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
22. Luke 17:3-4 “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Who was the prodigal son in the Bible?
Parables are fictional stories about fictional people to make a point about God. While none of the characters are real, we do know the prodigal son; he is anyone who turns away from God and then comes back. He’s a lost person who gave into the ways of the world. We know he was a person who was wasteful and spent his money without thinking and that he was spiritually lost.
The story of the prodigal son was a metaphor for people who had given in to a bad way of life. In the immediate setting, the prodigal son was a symbol for the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus spent time with and the Pharisees too. In modern terms, the prodigal son symbolizes all sinners who waste God’s gifts and refuse the chances He gives them to change and believe the Gospel.
The prodigal son took advantage of God’s grace. Grace is usually defined as a favor that someone does not deserve or earn. He had a loving father, a nice place to live, food, a plan for the future, and an inheritance, but he gave it all up for short-term pleasures. Additionally, he thought he knew how to live better than his father (Isaiah 53:6). Those who return to God, like the prodigal son, learn they need the guidance of God (Luke 15:10).
23. Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
24. Luke 15:6 “comes home, and calls together his friends and neighbors to tell them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!”
25. Luke 15:7 “In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent.”
26. Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
27. John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
28. Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
29. 1 Peter 2:25 “For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
What sin did the prodigal son commit?
The younger son made the mistake of thinking he knew how to live and chose a life of sin and destruction over following his father. However, he turned away from his sinful life after seeing the error of his ways. While his sins were great, he repented and turned away from sin. Yet, the older brother’s sins were greater and highlighted the heart of man.
The oldest son remains the most tragic character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He is a good example of the Pharisees and scribes once again. On the outside, they were good people, but on the inside, they were horrible (Matthew 23:25-28). This was true for the older son, who worked hard, did what his father said, and did not make his family or the town look bad.
When his brother returned, it was clear from what he said and did that he did not love his father or brother. Like the Pharisees, the older brother based sin on what people did, not how they felt (Luke 18:9-14). In essence, what the older brother is saying is that he was the one who deserved the party and that his father was not grateful for all the work he had done. He believed his brother was undeserving because of his sin, but the older son did not see his own sin.
The older brother was only thinking about himself, so he did not feel happy when his younger brother came home. He is so worried about fairness and justice that he can not see how important it is that his brother has changed and come back. He does not understand that “anyone who says he is in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness” (1 John 2:9-11).
30. Luke 15:13 “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his estate in wild living.”
31. Luke 12:15 “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
32. 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
33. Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
34. Luke 18:9-14 “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
35. Ephesians 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, fulfilling the cravings of our flesh and indulging its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath.”
36. Proverbs 29:23 “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”
What are the characteristics the prodigal son?
Most of the younger son’s sins are mostly of arrogance and narcissism. He did not think of anyone else but himself as he lived an indulgent life and spent all the money his father had earned. Furthermore, his greed also made him impatient, as the story indicates wanting his inheritance early. Essentially, he was a young petulant child who wanted his desires filled immediately without understanding the consequences of his actions or even caring about the outcome.
37. Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
38. Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”
39. Proverbs 18:12 (NLT) “Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.”
40. 2 Timothy 3:2-8 “For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 6 They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. 7 (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) 8 These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith.”
41. 2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
42. 1 Peter 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
Did the prodigal son lose his salvation?
The prodigal son is about turning back to God. Many Christians only talk about the father’s actions in the story and talk about how kind and loving He was to his son, but the story focuses on the son being welcomed back after a life of sin. The truth is that the younger son changed his mind. He saw how bad things were without his father, he saw that no one cared about his situation as much as his father did, and he finally saw that he would be treated better as a servant than away from his father. He changed his heart, saw the problem with his ways, and humbled himself before his father.
43. Joel 2:13 “And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.”
44. Hosea 14:1 “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.”
45. Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”
46. Luke 15:20-24 “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. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Hope for parents of prodigal children
A wayward kid may teach parents God’s viewpoint. The way our children can turn away from our wisdom and knowledge, we also do the same to Him. Here is the good news, though, for parents who want their prodigal children to return, God has not left you nor your child. Furthermore, God loves you and your child. He hears your desire for change and continues to give your child the opportunity to see the errors of their ways. First, however, they need to decide to change.
Start by entrusting your prodigal child to God. You cannot change their heart, but God can. We cannot guarantee that prodigal sons or daughters will return to the Lord or repent of their wickedness, as God gave them free will. But we can trust that if we “train up a child in the way he should go, even when he grows older he will not abandon it” (Proverbs 22:6). Instead, spend your time praying and do not get in God’s way. He has a plan for your child’s future, not one of destruction (Jeremiah 29:11).
Additionally, children, teenagers, and young adults often stray as they develop and mature. This is healthy and typical. It is crucial for parents not to overreact when their developing adults look at different faiths, political beliefs, or cultural concerns from diverse views. Parents should offer their children time to explore, ask questions, avoid lecturing, and listen to what they are learning. Most teens take years to comprehend their faith, beliefs, and personal identity.
While parents should embrace prodigals with kindness and forgiveness, they should not solve their issues for them. Your son or daughter may express guilt, but real repentance needs transformation. If parents rush to rescue their prodigal, they may prevent him or her from admitting failures that urge important adjustments.
47. Psalm 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
48. Luke 15:29 “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.”
49. 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
50. Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Jesus often taught through parables to show the way to salvation. The prodigal son parable highlights the love God has for sinners who turn away from the world and choose to follow Him. He will open His arms and accept them back into His fold with celebration and love. This parable can teach us so much if we are willing to see the intention of God’s heart. Finally, like the prodigal son in the parable, God can bring your prodigal child back to the right path.