The story of the prodigal son is rich with a lot of Hebrew context. Something that is lost in our western culture is the idea of an inheritance being due to the sons. In this parable, Yeshua tells that the younger son demands his inheritance prematurely (and gets it). In our society, children get whatever the parents decide as an inheritance, if anything at all. In fact, many families separate when patriarchs or matriarchs pass away due to incredible conflict over the estate. In the waning years of an elderly person’s life, it is not uncommon in our culture for that person’s kids to start vying for the attention of the elderly person in the hopes of getting a bigger share of the estate. It would appear the Hebrew culture handles this much better than western society.
One clear topic in the Prodigal Son parable is the topic of redemption. The younger son decided to turn his back on his family and his faith and squandered his material possessions and became impoverished due to his loose living. He had to be brought very low in order to seek repentance. He knew his father was just and treated even his hired hands well, but, more importantly, he knew what he was doing was wrong. It had been communicated to this young man that the behavior he had partaken in was wrong from a young age. He rebelled but knew the path back.
This is another problem our society lacks today at large. Many of our neighbors, especially the younger ones, lack the knowledge to repent. Western culture used to be Christ centered. While the Christianity it practiced was doctrinally troubled, at least it practiced Christianity in some measure. In fact, it is so easy to talk about Christianity in the past tense that it is rather sad. Today’s culture is awash in the Humanistic Perspective coupled with extreme relativism. We can see this as gay marriage continues to be foisted upon the populace, the increased acceptance of intoxicants as a way of life, and a host of other societal problems that seem to be brand new. The popular culture and governmental powers seem to be united against anything that resembles the faith of the Bible. The chief problem with this is that people will lack the path to redemption. When the loose living that seems to be the new American Dream brings negative consequences, people turn to secular means to fix it. Society increasingly does not recognize sins as sins so they do not know they are doing anything wrong.
These realities bring the following scripture to mind:
And he *said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. Revelation 22: 10-15
That’s a really scary verse but an encouraging verse at the same time. The scary part is that there is coming a time when it will be too late for many to repent and be saved. The encouraging parts are that this sinful society will at some point come to an end and it is not too late for many to repent like the Prodigal Son.