One thesis I have about Luke 15 is that it is all about money. Jesus is trying to set things in the world right; trying to counter the brokeness of the world, yes? One of the broken things is the economic system of a few people having too much and many people having far too little. So he welcomes and eats with sinners — he sees the sinners and shares hospitality with them, say the Pharisees and scribes in a grumbling way. So the first parable Jesus tells is about a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the 1 lost sheep.
That doesn’t make any sense at all. You have to keep your 99 sheep safe. It would be economically foolish to leave them for 1 sheep. What’s going on here?
Then he tells a story about a women who industriously searches for a missing coin — a valuable coin but not a make or break coin. All of that energy put into searching could have been put into something else. And she has her girlfriends over to celebrate — so she’s spent the coin?
That doesn’t make any sense. It seems wise on the surface — don’t loose your money! — but peel it back a little — wouldn’t the coin just have turned up eventually?
Then a father is asked to give his younger son the money he would have inherited someday and the younger son spends it on expensive living in a far country.
So that doesn’t make any sense, not the giving, not the choices the young son makes with the gift. Shouldn’t the father have said no? Or shouldn’t the son wisely set up a shop or something with the money? He just spends it on expensive living!
But then at the end of verse 14, after the money is all spent and a severe famine has come to that far country so “he began to be in need.”
I think this is where things get real. The difference between wants and needs. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and in this case the younger son has hurt his ownself. He had never been hungry before. He “hired himself out” so he had been free before and had not worked before. He now has limits. He now realizes how precious food and water are. He now “began to be in need”. It sunk him so far down that he “came to himself” in verse 17 and begins to make plans. Where do you go when you are in need? Home. Who will love you no matter what? Family. Who will believe you’re sorry, even if maybe you aren’t entirely sure yourself?
God is foolish enough to track down the one missing sheep; to search out the missing coin hiding in a crack in a dark room; to forgive and love the prodigal son, no matter what. God loves us that much, just as we are, and He loves us too much to let us stay that way. (Quoting Anne Lamot and a former pastor)