A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’
There is a Jewish tradition that the first character introduced in the story is the one the story is about, and so the father is actually the story’s primary focus. Here we have the father of two disobedient sons, and yet he loves them both, is generous to them both, and desires that both would be successful and prosperous leaders in his household.
We see that right from the start that the father divided his wealth between his sons. Whether or not it was appropriate for the younger son to ask for his inheritance, the father chose to readily give it to him. The father also chooses to give an inheritance to the older son–even though he neglected to receive it. And within all of this, there is no indication that there is a limit to the father’s resources. He gives the younger son his inheritance, and yet, when the son turns back to his father in repentance, the father lavishes him all the more; it seems there is no limit to his generosity.
The father is also a good and generous master to his servants. His servants have “more than enough bread” and the indication is that he is so good to work for that the younger son would rather face his father under the worst conditions than continue working as a paid servant for another.
But the story reveals that the father is also generous with his love, joy and mercy. In fact, he approaches both his sons. He sees the younger son from a distance when he is still far off, which would indicate he has been waiting and hoping for that son to come home; and when he does come, the father runs over to embrace and kiss him. He doesn’t even wait until the son is back in the land–he goes out to find his son while the son is far off and heading in the right direction. He likewise goes out to meet his older son, and pleads for him to come in and join them in the celebration. The father’s character is to bring in his sons and celebrate with them. He is actively pursuing them both whether or not they realize it.
God is full of blessings for everyone–there are struggles too, but even within the struggles there are blessings. He wants everyone to join his party. And the party takes place in His Kingdom. There are festivities in other lands, but when they are done there is no lasting peace or excitement. The younger son was curious about the festivities in other lands, but they did not fulfill him. The prostitutes only excited him for a moment. The festivities could only continue until his money ran out. And before he knew it, he wasn’t having fun at all. God’s parties are not like this. They last forever and go from glory to glory–better and better each time. We have the anticipation of a huge event–a wedding, so to speak–where God will become married or united with humankind in a superb way; a collision of the spiritual and physical realms in a fulness not yet experienced. A time when evil will be driven from the earth and the earth itself will be transformed. This will be very exciting!
But there’s something cool happening right now as well. Even now, God’s Kingdom is available to everyone who wants to live with Him. He wants everyone to join in.