Once, many years ago, there was a rich man who had two sons. He loved his sons very much, but the younger son was unhappy. He hated living at home and working for his father. One day the younger son said, “Give me right now the money that will come to me when you die. Then I can go away and live the way I want to.”
The father was very sad, but he did as his son asked. Quickly, the son packed up his best clothes, took the money and went off to see the world. He settled in a country far away and began to spend his money on all the expensive things he could find.
He had many friends in the city where he lived. Almost every day he had big parties for his friends. Before long, he had spent every bit of his money. When his cash was gone, he was surprised to find his “friends” had disappeared, too.
He had to move out of his fancy home. He had no place to live. His stylish clothes began to wear out, and he was hungry. A famine had come to the country. There was very little food, and what there was cost a lot of money. He could not find any work to earn money for food. Finally, he wandered out of the city and found a farmer who needed some help.
“Go out to the field and watch my pigs,” said the farmer. The young man was ashamed. Keeping pigs was considered the lowest sort of work. It did not pay well either, and he was hungry all the time. After awhile, even the pigs’ food started to look good to him. When that happened, he realized how far down in the world he had come. He remembered his home and his father.
“Why, even my father’s servants have all the food they can eat,” he said to himself, “and here I am, hungry enough to eat garbage. I’ll go back home. But I can’t ask my father to take me back into the family. I’ve been too bad. I’ll say, ‘Father, I have sinned against you and against God. I am not fit to be your son anymore. Please, just let me live here as one of your servants.’”
This son did not know it, but his father had thought about him and prayed for him every day he was gone. Every day the father looked down the road, hoping to see his son returning. The father loved him as much as ever. He missed his younger son and wanted him back home.
At last, one day as the father looked down the road, he saw someone who was walking toward the house. Even though he was a long way away he could tell it was his son. Eagerly, he ran down the road, arms outreached. When he reached his son, he put his arms around him and hugged him.
“Father,” his son began, “I have sinned against you and against God, and I am not fit to be your son.” The father did not even let him finish.
“Bring a fine robe!” He called to the servants. When the robe was brought, the father wrapped it around his son, hiding the filthy rags. “Bring the signet ring,” the father ordered next. A servant brought the ring with the seal in it. Signet rings of this kind were used to sign important papers. The father placed the ring on his son’s finger.
Then the father called all his friends together and had a big party to welcome his son home. Everything was forgiven.
“This my son was dead, and is alive again,” the father told his friends. “He was lost, and is found.”
Jesus told this story to show how much God loves us, even when we have done wrong. Sometimes we think we have to be good before we can come to God, but by ourselves we can never be good enough. We must come to Him as we are, like the son in the story. Then He will come to meet us as lovingly as the father in the story did. He will wrap His goodness around us and call us His sons and His daughters.
One of the beautiful stories of forgiveness in the Bible is the story of Joseph, who forgave his brothers for selling him as a slave into Egypt. You may read this story in Genesis 45:3-15.
In the story, the father did not just wait, but went to meet his long-lost son. Our Treasure Chest Verse tells the reason Jesus came to this earth:
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10