There are many things that Jesus Christ shared that are applicable and insightful for our lives today. They are right and truthful.

In the Gospel of Luke there is recorded the story of a young man (Luke 15:11-32) who insisted on getting his inheritance and then he left home and family to pursue what he wanted only to come to failure and loss and working in the most demeaning and degrading job that a Jewish boy could.

This story has traditionally been titled “The Prodigal Son,” but there are other characters in the story — the father, the older brother, the servants and, of course, the mother (who is assumed, reading between the lines in this all-too true story).

Helmut Thielicke, a great German theologian, professor in Hamburg and pastor of the university church wrote on Jesus’ story, suggesting it was often mistitled as “The Prodigal Son” and that it should really be titled “The Waiting Father.” The father is the hero of Jesus’ ancient story.

There is a single sentence in this story that we should consider in the light of what we are experiencing in both Washington and Austin today, indeed at all levels of our society.

Verse 13 discloses that the young son packed his bags and traveled to “a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” The very next verse in the story says, “and when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.”

This Jewish boy was employed on a pig farm feeding and caring for the hogs. This was not the life that he wanted or desired but the circumstances and situation forced him to “make ends meet” to have something to provide for his basic life needs.

The rebellious son wasted his substance with prodigal living. His dreams were fulfilled.

He reached the goal he worked toward, but other things intruded that he had not anticipated or desired and when he spent everything he had there was nothing else he could do but work in a demeaning and degrading job of feeding hogs.

Consider how this story can relate to our situation today.

The Prodigal had a taste for selfishness and sin, but that achievement did not remain sweet or agreeable for very long. He obtained full freedom.

The restraints of home and the presence of loved ones had kept him in check when he was still with family. Now he has no such interferences and inhibitions.

He doesn’t have to tolerate a father’s frown or his mother’s tears. He doesn’t have to abide by his older brother’s ways. He is on his own. He is free to do and be and to go where he wants.

The problem in any situation like this is accountability. He forgot that he could escape father, but not God. He felt that if he could just get away from father that he would be all right and things would go good.

We must learn in this valuable story the lesson of heart geography. Home and heaven are God’s way of dealing with us to keep us from the ravages of wrong and wickedness.

Left to ourselves we often rebel against both home and heaven only to end in tragic circumstances.

The attitude of many today can be simply stated — “I want what is mine. Give it to me. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll take it from you and do as I please.”

His time came. He left all he had. He took his inheritance and made his way to where he wanted to go, to do what he wanted to do.

He became what he wanted to become and learned that God’s Word is true — “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Money and success attract companions. Many of these companions are not real friends. Wealth and success often draw a mob of parasites and others to compliment and flatter and fawn over prodigals. They do this while they rob him and aid in his ruin.

True friends will not lead you into wrong, into sin. They will not encourage you in evil. True friends will help you avoid the perils of evil.

The older brother refused to rejoice in the return of the Prodigal with this accusing charge — “This your son has devoured your living with harlots.”

There is a long list of evils associated with this charge — drunkenness, lewdness, perversion, gambling and greed. He wasted his substance. Money.

This was the least evil thing the Prodigal did, but it must be mentioned. Riotous living robs. Prodigal living is costly. It is wasteful.

Have you noticed how much people pay to do evil? They will grudgingly give God a tip, but they will pay a fortune for something evil. Paul wrote about this when he said in Romans about doing “those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28).

The Prodigal wasted his time. He wasted his affections, loving the wrong things. He gave himself to the wrong people. He abandoned home and family. He loved those who used him.

Why is it that so many of us are willing to listen to the wrong crowd? Why do we love wrong things?

There comes a time and place where we have to endure loss and failure, winding up in life’s pig pen before we realize there is a better way. The Prodigal “came to himself” and realized that he needed to go home.

Prodigal living is not right, but God can use even this to bring a person to himself. Tragedies are not pleasant, but they can be profitable if we let them bring us to God. The costly wastes in life can bring us to ourselves and there we can begin the journey back home to sanity, to the Father and to good.

I want to encourage you to consider our waste and evil as a society and our need to return to God and to His way. Let me hear from you on what you think about wrong living and a return to God and His life of goodness.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts with me at drjerryhopkins@yahoo.com. You may also reach me by “snail” mail at Dr. Jerry Hopkins, P.O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671.

— Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired university professor.