The Lost Son Takes 4 More Steps
By Don Umphrey
(with scriptural citations from the NIV)
In a recent blog I wrote about the parable of the lost son (also known as the prodigal son) from Luke 15:11-32 taking what is equivalent to the first three steps to recovery formulated on biblical principles by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
As a review, the son was thoughtless when asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive. He left home, squandered his money and ended up working as a pig-feeder, the most disgusting job in the world for a good Jewish boy. The son was on the verge of starving to death and wished he could eat pig food, but no one gave him anything.
Out of Denial
Two things work to lead a person out of denial and take Step One. The first is pain and the second is a moment of clarity which is demonstrated in the text by “…he came to his senses …” (Luke 15:17).
Humbled, the son then realized that even as a servant in his father’s household he would be much better off. Step Two: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
He then decided to return home to his father. Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Steps Six and Seven
These first three steps are often summarized as “I can’t. He can. I’ll let him.
After deciding to return home, the son determined what he would to his father. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). This is equivalent to Step Four: ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In the recovery world fourth steps are usually written and are often quite extensive.
The son journeyed home and confessed “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (Luke 15:21).
Did He Goof on Step Five?
What is the difference in what the son planned to say to his father and what he actually did say?
After the son said, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” the father had heard enough. He didn’t give his son a chance to continue. Instead, he told his servants to bring the best robe, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then he staged a big celebration.
It isn’t great to learn what God thinks of us when we’ve strayed and then came home!
The son’s confession is equivalent to Step Five: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Those in recovery who are working Step Five often use their written fourth step inventories to guide them.
By his words and actions the son demonstrated the spirit of Steps Six and Seven.
Step Six: Were entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2)
Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
“They (Jesus and his disciples) came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’” (Mark 9:33-37).
Just as the steps take people from the wreckage of self-centeredness to God-centered, the lost son arrived at home with the idea of being a servant, a completely new attitude toward his father—and undoubtedly with other people.
© 2022 by Don Umphrey
The New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.
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