I‘ve taught the parable of the prodigal son from Luke, chapter 15, many times. It never occurred to me until today to ask, “Where was his mother?” I understand the parable should probably be titled the parable of the loving father. The story is much more about the father than the son. Nevertheless, there isn’t a mom anywhere in the picture. Why did Jesus leave her out of his parable? I think I might have the answer. Consider the story of the prodigal son if Dad was gone that day and Mom had been left to deal with her teenage son.
The story of the prodigal son, as found in 1 Janet, chapter 15:
There was a mother who had two sons. The younger one said, “Mom give me my share of the inheritance.” The mom replies, “I don’t think so. But if there is something you need just let me know.” The son makes up a fantastic story of great need and his mother says, “Well, I want you to fit in with the rest of your friends, so by all means, let me give you what you want.” Not long after that, the son goes to the pawn shop and sells the things he had convinced his mom he needed, takes the cash and heads to Vegas. She continues to check on him each day, believing that he is working 9-5 at the office, even when the loud bells of the slot machines in the background should indicate otherwise. She suggests he come home for dinner and believes him when he says he has to work late. In fact, she hangs the phone up, proud that her son is working so hard. One day, the phone rings and her son says he has made some bad investments, and he has been wrongly arrested for tax evasion. He asks her to come and bail him out of jail—and oh, by the way, did I mention I had moved to Vegas? She responds, “No, why didn’t you tell me?” Her son says, “because I wanted to surprise you with my new wife.” As the doorbell rings, her son says, “And she and my new baby need to stay with you for awhile.” The mother, with great excitement, runs to the door asking, “Is it a boy or a girl?” As she opens the door, she sees a young woman with orange hair, dressed in camo, carrying a small pink bundle. She shouts to her older son, who has been living in the basement for the last six years. (The job market is tough for college graduates!) She tells her older son, “Quick, clean up down there. You need to move out to the garage. Your brother’s new wife and child have just come home!” Needless to say, the older brother is upset. He shouts, “But mom, there is no television or internet connections in the garage!” His mother says, I’ll get it installed later today – but right now, I need to get to Vegas and bail your brother out of jail . . . before your dad gets home.”
Now you know why there is no mother in the parable of the prodigal son! She wouldn’t have stood there and watched HER son walk away! She would have run down that road—and bribed him to come home! I have often mentioned Jesus’ parable when I speak to a room full of moms, and I usually make this point. If you have a prodigal in your family, ask God for strength and wisdom, but let those kids own their consequences—fully own them. The greatest need your child has in this world is God and the salvation the heavenly Father has provided through his son, Jesus. If your child is going to “return to the Father” because of a pig sty, then that pig sty is where you want your child to be. Don’t do your best to keep your children from consequences; do your best to help those kids experience EVERY ONE of them. Allow your prodigal to fail, and even suffer if necessary. And tell his older brother to move out and get a job! No one wants to be a Prodigal’s Mother – but if you end up with one, do everything necessary to send them to that pig sty – praying they will “come to their senses” (Luke 15:17) just like the parable teaches!
“Train your child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). A proverb is not a promise. It is a statement of general truth. No matter how well you parent, you cannot parent away your child’s free will. If you train your child, he will probably turn out great – when he is old. It’s those other years that might have a pig sty or two!
This blog post was originally published in July of 2012