The Sin of the Prodigal Son

Unless we understand the magnitude and depth of the son's sin, to the same degree, the embrace of the father loses its wonder.

The Sin of the Prodigal Son
Photo by Alfonso Scarpa / Unsplash

In the famous parable of the lost son that Jesus said in Luke 15, apart from his lack of love for his father, what was the sin which the son indulged when he left his house? The answer to the question is important for us to appreciate what comes later in the parable. Unless we understand the magnitude and depth of the son's sin, to the same degree, the embrace of the father loses its wonder. Hence let us pay close attention to the words of Jesus.

Jesus says, "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" (Lk.15:13, NIV). Other translations say he wasted his father's wealth in "reckless living" (ESV), "loose living" (NASB), "riotous living" (KJV) and "prodigal living" (NKJV). The root word in Greek is ἀσώτως (asótós) which is an adverb for living a life that is "extravagantly wasteful because of loose living, i.e. a debauched and profligate lifestyle." This word is found only in this verse in the Greek New Testament, but its noun form ἀσωτία (asótia) is found in three verses of the New Testament - Ephesians 5:18 says "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation (ἀσωτία), but be filled with the Spirit"; Titus 1:6 says those who are made elders (pastors) in the church should not be "accused of dissipation (ἀσωτία)"; and 1 Peter 4:4 says that when we live holy lives, unbelievers "are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation (ἀσωτία), and they malign you." So it is clear what kind of life the lost son indulged in while he was away from his father's house. The Bible says he lived in debauchery or dissipation.

These English words are not familiar to most Bible readers. Debauchery means "extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures and especially sexual pleasures - behaviour involving sex, drugs, alcohol, etc." Dissipation means "wasting money, energy, and resources for over-indulgence in sensual pleasures." So the lost son was wasting all his father's money to indulge in all kinds of sensual pleasures like sexual sins. This is the reason why the elder brother who is furious at his father's welcome of the younger son says in v.30 that the younger one had wasted his father's wealth "on prostitutes" (Lk.15:30). It is also the reason why the Malayalam Bible translates Luke 15:13 as the younger son was indulging in immoral living (ദുർനടപ്പ്).

Now the amazing and surprising thing about this parable is what Jesus says about the father. When such a son who has wasted all his father's wealth on sexual immorality, extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures and prostitutes, decides to barely take one step towards his father, Jesus says, "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" (Lk.15:20). This is the picture of God that Jesus came to reveal us. While we are a long way off, barely having taken one step of repentance towards God, our Father sees us, His heart melts with compassion towards us, and He runs towards us. He hugs us and kisses us. All those who have squandered themselves in sexual sins of all sorts, if you repent, even barely making the first step towards God, Jesus says, our God runs towards us, hugs us, and kisses us. For that is the kind of God He is. He is the God of grace to all who truly repent. He is not like the religious elder brother who accused his younger brother of sexual sins. He is rather the father who welcomed his younger son and threw a party rejoicing over his return (Lk.15:23-24). Indeed, heaven rejoices when we repent (Lk.15:7,10).

Let this word encourage all who are defeated, broken, and discouraged under the weight of your over-indulgence in sensual and immoral living to take one step of repentance towards God. Put away your sexual sins and make one turn to God. You will find the Father running towards you to embrace and welcome you. Amen.