“… the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
— Luke 15:13
Someone once said that people can be divided into two types: givers and takers. The Prodigal Son in Christ’s parable was most definitely a taker. We can paraphrase his first words in the parable as “Gimme. Gimme the goods that fall to me.” “Gimme” is his attitude and the attitude of millions of people in our world today.
So the father divided the wealth and gave the son his living. With his newly acquired access to wealth, the prodigal set out for the “far country.” Where was that far country? Well, the original hearers of Jesus’ parable might have thought it was Babylon or Rome or Corinth. Today a prodigal might set out for New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Harvey Cox described the “far country” as the secular city, the place where most people live today, a world bounded by time with no thought of eternity or of God. People who adopt the secular philosophy don’t deny God outright; they merely ignore Him, considering Him irrelevant.
The Prodigal Son did just that to his father as he set off for the far country. But the far country wasn’t all he had dreamed it would be. The Prodigal Son soon found that out. The more he did what he liked, the less he liked what he did. He looked for liberty; he found tyranny. He looked for friends; he found pigs. He looked for sensuality; he found starvation. Those were the realities of the far country. When the prodigal had spent all he had in riotous living, a mighty famine came over that land, and he found himself in great need. To survive, he ended up feeding pigs, a most debasing task for a Jew. Further, he felt so hungry that he longed to fill his stomach with the slop he fed them. Such are the ravages of sin. It may look so glamorous at first, but it ends up so debasing.
The good news is that though we may venture to that far country, the Father anxiously awaits our return. If we repent and return to the Father, no matter how far we’ve strayed, He will welcome us in. Have you wandered off? Turn around and come back today. The Father is waiting with open arms.