Feeling Your Need
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:17–24, NRSV
The other day I was reading the story of the Prodigal Son with a fresh eye and expectant ear, when out of the blue a new theme struck me.
The question arose in my heart, “Was the younger brother repentant or starving?” The statement found in verse 17 sounds more pragmatic than repentant. Could it be that, even at the end of our rope and at the bottom of our deprived hearts, where the bedrock of our sin lies is no sorrow? Could it be that the boulder is too big for us to budge much less pull out? Could it be that our pragmatic hearts know no better than to come to the Father as needy beggars looking for a better job? That's what he seems to be thinking.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!”
(v. 17) In other words, “This job stinks and my father treats his servants better than this. I’m going to go get a job there.” Don’t get me wrong, we can try to clean ourselves up. We always do our best to trim the tree and cut the bad fruit off, but the root of sin is lodged under the boulder of depravity. That is how it appears in this story and in my own story. The heart behind the younger brother was not necessarily a ‘broken’ sorry; it was 'this bites I’m going home where the food is better and the job is easier.'
Had the weight of his wrong really done its crushing power on the prodigal or was the final blow going to come when the Gospel was revealed, when the one-way love of Jesus came at him when he least deserved it? Jesus is the one who covers our debt and makes us whole. He is the one who raises dead men to life and meets us where we are not, vice-versa. As the hymn says, “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him.” (
Come Ye Sinners
by Indelible Grace) Have you acknowledged that need today?
The Father rises up when we are a long way off and He runs to us and falls on our neck with a hug and a kiss. Come home to Him today!
The Rev. Jonathan V. Adams
Associate for Pastoral Care and Outreach