1.2 The Younger Son: When Life Has Hit the Bottom (Luke 15:11-32)
So, off goes the young son foot-loose and fancy-free to live his life, to forge his own destiny. He leaves dad and the family farm for the bright lights and the big city. With loaded debit card in hand, he no doubt finds new friends ready and willing to help him spend his money-- and spend it he does; but he doesn't just fritter it away in fancy restaurants and on luxury items. "He squanders his wealth in immoral living." St Augustine states "To be in the realm of lustful passion is the same as to be in the realm of darkness" (Confessions 1.18).
How true it is that just when we think we are in control of our lives, the circumstances of life awaken us from our illusions and confront us with the facts. A severe famine strikes and this wayward young man has nothing to sustain him; even worse, he had nothing to sustain him when he had his wealth, for the real famine is in his soul.
In utter desperation, he hires himself out to those who give him the task of feeding pigs. He is so hungry, even the pig slop looks tasty! This is about as low as a Jewish boy can sink. He has hit the bottom and he has hit it with a loud thud. As the younger son goes about his degrading task, he probably wonders how he could have gotten himself into such a mess. How often we find ourselves in situations we are not anticipating because we did not think through the consequences of getting what we have asked for. Suzanna Wesley taught her young son, John, that sin is "whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things." There is a senselessness in sin-- which is not insanity-- but a refusal to live in the wisdom of God. The prodigal son has lost his senses.
It is sad but true that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can come to our senses. There is, of course, no guarantee that we will. In the thirty years that I have been a pastor, I have seen more than a few individuals sink so low that they could take their place beside the prodigal son in the pig sty; and even at the bottom, they continue to live senseless lives. But in the midst of the nonsensical, it is possible to find rationality; and in the foolishness, wisdom waits...
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)