The Story of the Wayward Son
a story about a father who had two sons. The elder son, knowing that
he would be heir to his father’s fortune when his father died remained
close to home and worked hard for the good of the family. The younger
son, whom we shall call Jorim, or Jori for short, had an adventurous spirit
and enjoyed having a good time with his friends. The father loved
both of his sons very much and attended to their needs throughout their
childhood. More than anything he wanted to appear to be fair and
to treat them equally.
Because of Jori’s outgoing personality he interacted
more with the father than did the elder son, who was serious-minded and
a steady worker. The father was aware that his younger needed to
mature and become more serious about the work of the farm.
Nevertheless it was difficult for the father to resist the impulsive demands
of this charming younger son.
When he had completed his schooling and
was ready to take his place in the world Jori looked around the farm and
the nearby village. He had had a great time while growing up and
had many friends with whom he had shared enjoyment. Nevertheless,
during his school days Jori heard about other lands and other peoples.
There was a large world outside his father’s farm and the village.
He chaffed at the idea of having to spend the rest of his days in these
surroundings, doing the same, boring work, day after day. He
had never seen that wide world that he knew was beyond the village walls
and beyond his father’s large farm.
One day he went to his father and said, “Father,
please give to me now the part of your holdings that will come to me after
your death. Let me use the money now so that I may see the world
and grow wise in it’s ways before I settle down to a life of service and
The father was aware that this was not the wisest
choice that Jori could make, but it was difficult for him to control his
son’s infectious zest for life. The father knew that if he forced
Jori to remain on the farm, continuing to do the hard work demanded at
that time, that Jori would begin to resent him and his elder son.
Jori would become embittered about his limited experiences on the family
Therefore the father reluctantly calculated
how much the younger son’s inheritance would be and gave him a bag with
the money that the inheritance would be worth. Jori grasped the money
bag with great joy, tucked it into his waist band and went whistling down
the country road to town. That first night he and his friends in
town had a great party with eating and drinking, dancing and merriment.
The next day Jori bought a donkey to ride to the town of Jaffa on the sea
coast. There he bought a ticket to what the Bible calls “a far country”.
This was probably Italy or Spain. Both of these countries were a very far
distance from the country of Israel. The journey by sea took many
days before the ship docked at the harbor.
Jori had a great time. He partied,
he sang and he danced with the new friends he met. He met many interesting
new people and gave them parties with the most expensive entertainment.
After all, Jori was a rich young man with the money that his father had
One morning Jori awakened very late in the morning since
he had been having a blast the night before with eating, drinking and dancing.
He reached into his money pouch and discovered that there were only a few
mites, or pennies, left. What could he do with a few pennies?
He could not pay for another party for his friends. He could not
pay the rent for his room at the lodging house. Neither could he
buy enough food to keep him alive for very long.
No matter. Jori had lots of friends.
They would throw parties for him just as he had been doing for them for
many months. He pulled on his clothes, gathered his belongings and
placed them into a pouch. He slung the pouch over his shoulder and
went to the home of one of his new friends.
When the new friend came to the door Jori said, “This is
a little embarrassing, but I seem to have run out of money temporarily.
I thought that I might stay with you for a few days until I decide what
I’ll be doing.”
“I’m sorry,” the friend said, frowning, “but
we do not have any spare bedrooms. You’ll have to go somewhere else.”
This man who Jori thought was his friend shut the door in his face.
Embarrassed, he slowly walked down the street to the home of another new
friend. The new friend also refused to offer Jori a place to stay.
By this time Jori was tired.
He had walked a long distance this afternoon. The sun was hot.
The road was dusty, and he was thirsty. He counted the few pennies
in his money pouch. There was not enough money even to buy a drink
at the store. Instead he went to the watering trough from which the
horses drank. He immersed his hot face into the water and took several
deep drinks from the water that was not even cold. This was not the
happy, carefree life that he had planned.
Finally, recognizing that he was in a difficult situation
he went to the home of a wealthy man nearby. He knocked on the door
and asked to see the man. The man did not even invite him into the
Jori said in a faltering voice, “Sir,
I understand that you have a large farm outside the city. I’d like
to start working for you.”
“I already have several men working for me
at the farm, “ the man replied. "In what work are you skilled?”
Jori tried to think of the things that he had
done on his father’s farm, but mostly his father or his elder brother made
the decisions. Jori had occasionally helped rake the hay, feed the
livestock and a few times he had helped the workers hoe weeds in the fields.
Jori had not enjoyed that work. It was boring, the sun was hot and
it made his muscles ache.
The farm owner laughed when Jori told him of the
tasks he had done. “It doesn’t sound as if you have any useful skills.
The best I could do is allow you to take care of my pigs.”
Jori sucked in his breath in astonishment.
Nevertheless, desperate for a job, he accepted the position.
Day after day as Jori herded the farm owner’s pigs
he thought about the conditions on his father’s farm. Pigs were considered
unclean and unhealthful animals in Israel. To become a swineherd
was the lowest job possible in Israel. Jori did not earn enough money
to buy much food, and sometimes he even ate the pigs' food.
Jori slept in the barn with the pigs since he did not earn enough money
to rent a bedroom at the inn.
After a few weeks of hot, dry summer weather
without rain the fields began to turn brown. Without rain the crops
could not grow. Food became more and more expensive. Jori finally
was forced to eat only the food that he could get from the pig trough.
For many days Jori thought about his father’s farm and
the wonderful life he had left behind. The world was not the wonderful
place Jori had thought it would be. He longed to be back in his father’s
house, sleeping in his own bed. That could never be any more, Jori
thought, “I have spent all of my share of my father’s wealth. I don’t
deserve to be my father’s son anymore.”
Jori remembered the wonderful meals his
father provided for his farm workers. None of them had to eat pig’s
food. “I’ll go back to my father’s house,” Jori thought. “I
will ask him to let me be one of his hired hands. At least I will
have enough to eat.”
Jori decided to return home at any cost.
He went to the sea coast and asked a ship’s captain if he could work as
a deck hand on a ship that was going to sail to Israel in a few days.
Even here, Jori had no useful work experience, and so he
agreed to clean and scrub the decks. He would have to work long hours each
day in the hot sun, but at least the ship would take him home to his father.
Arriving at the dock at Joffa Jori slung his tattered clothing in a pouch
over his shoulder and started walking down the dusty road toward his father’s
house. Jori recalled the last time he had traveled down that road
on a donkey. Now he did not even have the money to buy a donkey.
After walking for two days and sleeping in a haystack along
the way at night, he finally came into sight of his father’s farm.
He could see a figure running down the road toward him, waving his arms.
As the man drew closer Jori was astonished to see that it was his father,
welcoming him home.
His father hugged and kissed him with tears of joy running
down his cheeks.
“Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
I have wasted the inheritance you gave me and have nothing to show for
it but memories that make me ashamed of myself. Please allow me to
work on your farm as a hired hand and I’ll be a good workman for you.”
The father said, “You are still my son.
You will be treated as my son, and I will be delighted to have you work
with us on the farm as a family once again.”
The father called one of his workers and ordered him to
bring good clothing and good shoes to replace the tattered rags that Jori
was wearing. The father took off his own signet ring and placed it
on Jori’s hand. He ordered a servant to slaughter a calf and to place
it over the coals to roast. The housemaids began clapping and dancing
while the pipers played songs of celebration and joy. Jori had never
been so happy in his whole life. How wonderful it was to be part
of a loving family again, and to be welcomed as a son. He deeply
regretted the foolish decisions he had made and now he would spend the
rest of his life trying to make it up to his loving father.
As the shadows began to lengthen, the elder son started
home from the fields where he had been working. In the distance he
heard music and shouts of laughter mingled with the singing. He called
a servant to tell him what all of the commotion and celebration was.
The servant answered, “Your younger brother has returned
home and we have prepared a celebration for him. We are roasting
the prize calf for dinner tonight.”
The elder brother was furious. He went to his father and
demanded an explanation. He shouted at his father, “All of
these years I have worked hard for you. I have remained on the farm,
year after year. You have not so much as given me a goat to roast
for my friends, and here you have killed and roasted the fatted calf for
your son. Jori has squandered your living having a gay old time in
the cities of the world, spending money on evil women and making parties
for his friends. This is not fair.”
The father gently took his elder son by his shoulders and
said, “Son, all that I have will be yours when I die. You have been
faithful to me and you have worked hard. I appreciate that.
Nevertheless, this, your younger brother was dead to us, but now he is
alive. He has returned home to live with us. We accept him
as a member of our family and he will be treated as a member of the family.
He will work for us and we will pay him a workman’s wages for his work,
but the inheritance is yours. Let us rejoice in having this long
lost member back in the family with us.”
The elder brother was not happy to see
Jori’s return but he recognized that his father was right. He accepted
Jori back into the household as a son of the family. It is important
to remember, however, that the father had said that his entire estate belonged
as an inheritance for the elder brother since Jori had wasted his share
of the inheritance. Jori had received forgiveness, but the situation
had changed and could not be changed back to its original status.
The consequences could not be averted. Jori would not inherit any
more of his father’s money. He would always be the beloved
son, welcome to work and stay in his father’s house for as long as the
father lived. But that was the most that the father could do for
Jori because of Jori’s earlier decisions. Those early decisions determined
Jori’s fate forever.
1. This story represents the attitude
of our Father God toward us as His children. When we fail to fulfill
the duties that God expects of us He does not disown us as children.
God loves us dearly, and the sacrifice of Jesus in our behalf allows us
to enjoy complete forgiveness by God when we ask for forgiveness.
2. If we confess our failings, our Father,
God, will be faithful to forgive us immediately and to bring us back into
fellowship with Him and with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
3. Decisions that we make in this life
often carry consequences that may not be able to be changed. We may
not be able to complete in this life, the work that we failed to do in
the past. If we cause harm to others we should ask forgiveness and
try to make it up to them. Nevertheless, some things cannot be changed.
If we have killed another person, that person cannot be brought back to
life in this world. If we have caused children to be born without
a father to love and care for them, they will suffer the consequences.
They may have a childhood deprived of a father’s love and attention.
This rarely can be changed.
4. From this story we learn that it would have been
better for Jori in the long run if he had not gone off and squandered his
inheritance. Nevertheless, he did just that, and his life changed
forever in many respects, even though his father and brother forgave him
for what he had done.
5. The people with whom we associate can have a great
impact on what happens in our lives. While we should have love and
compassion for all people, we should be careful about the friends with
whom we choose to spend our spare time. Their values and standards
may strongly influence our own decisions, and this will mold our character