The fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke is all about lost things. Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep (vs. 3-7), a parable about a lost coin (vs. 8-10), and a parable about a lost boy (vs. 11-24). This is the only time Jesus used three consecutive parables to emphasize a single point. The point, therefore, must be extremely important. What is it? Is it not that what really matters to God is the lost?
Along with stressing the importance of the lost to God, Jesus also insinuates in these three parables that all lost people are not the same. While all lost people are equally lost, some are like the lost sheep, some are like the lost coin, and some are like the prodigal son.
Sheep get lost because of their own carelessness. They get their eyes on a clump of grass here and a clump of grass there. The next thing you know they’ve wandered off from the flock and are lost. A lot of people are lost because of their own carelessness. They’ve been careless all of their lives about the things of God. They’ve had their eyes on a clump of worldly pleasure here and a clump of worldly possessions there. Their obsession with worldly things has resulted in their carelessness about spiritual things.
The lost coin, unlike the lost sheep, was not lost because of its own carelessness, but because of the carelessness of another. If the woman had not been careless with it, she would have never lost it. Some people are like this lost coin; that is, they’re lost because of the carelessness of others. Maybe it was the carelessness of their parents who failed to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Maybe it is the carelessness of a Christian friend who has failed to pray for them and witness to them. Or maybe it is the carelessness of a nearby church in reaching out to its community.
When we get to the lost boy, we’re talking about a horse of a different color. He wasn’t lost because of carelessness, but because of callousness. The prodigal son represents the hard-core lost souls of our world; that is, those who live their lives with a clinched fist in the face of God. They demand from God their due—health, wealth, and happiness—but insist upon living their lives as though God were nonexistent.
Prodigals live riotously in this world with no thought of the Heavenly Father until their riotous living leads them to ruin. It is only when they hit rock bottom—sitting there peering at the slop in the trough of the devil’s pig pen—that there is any hope of a prodigal coming to himself or herself and turning to God.
Many a time I’ve been asked by a loving parent to pray that God would spare their prodigal son or daughter from the pig pen. However, the Father in Christ’s parable never intervened to keep the prodigal from the pig pen. He knew it was the prodigal’s only hope of coming to his senses and repenting of his sins. In light of this, shouldn’t we pray prodigals into the pig pen rather than attempting to pray them out of it? Otherwise, they’ll never suffer the full consequences of their spiritual callousness, have any incentive to repent of their sin, or ever come to their senses and the Father’s house.
I praise you my Heavenly Father for welcoming a sinner like me into your family with open arms. I pray now on behalf of the prodigal souls for whom you have burdened me to pray. I ask you to bring them to their senses, no matter what it takes, so that they will come to Christ in confession of their sins against heaven. Amen.