Father Of The Lost 1 — Free Will
Updated: Jun 1
Chan Gin Kai
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:11-16)
Jesus embedded so many learning points in the last of the three parables in this chapter that we could write a whole book on it. But for this series of articles, titled “Father Of The Lost”, we shall explore only a few points, on the father alone.
When the younger son asked for his share of the estate, the father would have already guessed that he was up to no good. Traditionally, the inheritance is given out to the children when the father has died. To ask for it prematurely is akin to regarding the father as dead. An immature man with lots of money is a recipe for disaster, and the father would have anticipated that too.
So why did the father give the younger son his inheritance knowing full well that the son would desert the family and ruin himself?
He gave his son free will.
The Pain Of Free Will
True enough the younger son abandoned the father, and “set off for a distant country”. He then squandered it all in sin, and got himself into serious trouble.
In giving his son free will, the father allowed his son’s downfall, and it was a really terrible one.
Would it be better to exert control on the son so as to shield him from sin and pain? Would it be right to deny him the freedom of choice, so that he won’t make bad ones?
But really, the greater pain was on the father. He knew his younger son was going to abandon him and yet he allowed it to happen. It must have felt terrible knowing that his son was going to hurt himself. Imagine the many unbearable worries that must have assailed the father’s mind… Is he hungry? Is he sick? Is he arrested? Is he injured? Is he dead?
And so the father waited anxiously everyday, looking into the horizon from dawn till dusk, hoping for his son’s return. We know he did that because Jesus described it in his parable: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20b)
Most of the pains in the world are caused by the consequences of humanity’s sin. From global issues like climate change and wars, to crimes like rape and theft, to problems like betrayals and quarrels, we know the cause of all of them is sin. Our lust, greed, selfishness, pride and more, have hurt ourselves and people around us. We suffer the consequences of our own unrighteousness and the collateral damage of others’ too.
Besides all of these physical and emotional hurts are the spiritual consequences of our sins too. Not only do we suffer the pain of being distanced from God, we risk eternal condemnation.
But even as we face our pain and lick our wounds, remember that God feels more hurt than we do. The sins we commit show our ingratitude for His grace, and our rejection of His love. And because He loves us so much, it agonises Him to see us suffer.
The Beauty Of Free Will
Would the younger son have been happier if the father had denied his request? He would be forced to stay at home, but his heart had long abandoned the family. He would be stopped from falling into “wild living”, but his mind had long lusted after those pleasures. He would have avoided getting into trouble, but he wouldn’t have learnt his lesson either.
He had the love of his father and the comforts of home. But because his heart was enticed by sin, his home felt like a prison and his father like an obstacle. He was miserable because his perspectives were already warped by temptation
It took pain to exorcise those twisted thoughts. The father knew that his son would be hurt, but allowing his son to leave enabled the son to come back changed.
Forcibly keeping his son would have created even more bitterness. But free will enabled the son to choose their relationship when he came to his senses. Their relationship was restored and even better than before the son left.
Free will is a double edged sword. It can be exercised or exploited, to love or to hate, to give or to take, to build or to destroy. It can create the most beautiful relationships and legacies, or bring about pain and ruin.
The most beautiful things are done through free will. Do we care out of devotion or duty? Do we give out of compassion or compulsion? Do we serve out of pleasure or pressure? When we decide to love by choice and not obligation, we create truly wonderful relationships and memories.
Jesus sacrificed for us willingly, out of love. He faced excruciating pain on the cross so that we can now enjoy a beautiful relationship with him.
How are you going to exercise your free will?
Read more about ‘Father Of The Lost’ and 'Slave Or Son':
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.