The Covetous Son

Bill Brinkworth

The two sons were quite different from each other.  The oldest was a faithful, hard worker.  Seldom did he miss a day’s work.  Rain or shine, he was found in the fields caring for his father’s crops.

However, this could not be said about the youngest.  It was always hard for him to be on time.  Many times, he just did not show up. Of course, his excuses seemed legitimate.  “I hurt my back yesterday,” or “I’ve got the flu bug that everyone else had.”  The truth was he just did not like to work.  When he was at work, his mind was far from what he was doing.

Much of the time, he would daydream about what he would do if he had a lot of money.  “Oh, the places I would visit; the clothes I would wear.  Why, even my friends would be the best: princes, dukes, and maybe even kings.”

On and on these ideas went through his mind.  The more he thought and daydreamed, the more important they seemed to him.  Soon, most of his waking time was spent thinking about his dream of being wealthy. Because of his discontentment, work became more dissatisfying to him.  “I should be in the presence of royalty, and not working in the fields like a common peasant!”

As his hatred for his job on the family estate grew, he began to think of ways to get out of this ‘poor man’s life,’ and how to get money so he could live the carefree life he desired. Finally, one day an idea came to him.  His father was very wealthy.  He had fields, cattle, servants, and money!  When his father would eventually die, he would endow all of it to his sons.  Why wait until that happened?  Besides, that could be a long time off, and the youngest son wanted the money – now!

He waited for his father to be in a good mood, and approached him with the idea.  “Dad, you said that when you die, all that you have will be mine and my brother’s.  Well, I just can’t wait that long.  I need it now!  I’ve just got to get off this farm.”  On and on he whined and complained to his father.

At first, his father was against the idea; but as the son complained and showed how he hated his life; the father succumbed to his son’s pleas.  All was divided, and the half was given to the son.  Half the flocks were sold.  Half the harvest crops were auctioned off; so that the youngest could have his share.

The day arrived when the son left with his half of his birthright.  Goodbyes were said, and on he went with his money.  It was more money than he had ever seen.  “Oh, what a wonderful life this money will give me,” he thought.

After he arrived in town, he first rented himself one of the nicest, most exclusive apartments.  “Surely, any one that lives here could not possibly ride an old nag as I have.”  Off he went to get himself one of the most beautiful carriages and team of horses he had ever seen.  “Certainly, a man of my stature and wealth must have finer clothes.”  Off he went again to dress himself in the best clothing money could buy.

What a sight this transformed farm-boy was.  Soon this eloquent, young man was the talk of the town.  People stopped to stare as his stately team of horses pranced by pulling his carriage.  The parties and balls this young man had were unmatched by any.  All were invited, and most came.

His house was the center of attraction.  Visitors were always coming and going.  He was always surrounded by friends.  Word of his generosity spread.  Even some of the town’s elite confided to him, “that things were not as it seemed,” and could he lend them some money.

What a life he had; a dream come true. “A big house, servants, rich living, rich friends, respect.  Oh, what a life,” he proudly thought.

Shortly, the money ran out.  The parties stopped.  Buying of clothes stopped.  Money lending halted.  Soon buying food, and paying the rent even came to a grinding stop.  The carriage and horses were sold to pay some of the bills.  There was no money left.

“Surely, my friends will help me,” he believed.  Soon he was discouraged, as one ‘friend’ after another turned his requests down.  Many looked at him strangely.  Many even avoided him.  He was all alone with no friends; no money; nowhere to go.  He was forced to leave town.

A couple of miles outside town he was able to find a place to work.  It was a terrible job, but it was either work there or starve.  His job was to look over a herd of pigs.  They were not penned in; so he had to roam the countryside with them.  Even more humiliating were the poor wages he was given.  He could not afford to buy his meals and was forced to eat what was fed to the hogs.  “How low could a fellow go?” he surely thought.

Soon he remembered his days working for his father on the farm.  His father was good to him.  Yes, the way they lived was quite humble, but look at the son now.  How foolish he had been.  How wasteful he had been with his father’s money.  How stupid he had been to believe that all those people were his friends.

Days and weeks went by.  He grew more miserable.  “If only I hadn’t left my father.  Even his servants are fed better that this.  I have done foolishly, and have sinned against God.”

He left his hog-sitting job, and headed home.  He was ready to apologize and do whatever it took to get right with his father; even if he were rejected. As he neared the farmhouse, his father saw him from afar.  “My son, my son,” his father shouted, as he ran to hug his returning, wayward son. 

A party was thrown in celebration of the young son’s return.  It was a grand reunion, and all between father and son was forgiven.  The foolish son was received back into the household.  What was lost was found.

This is part of a fictional account of the parable taught by Jesus in Luke 15.  Although a parable, I am sure this account has happened thousands of times.  There are always foolish people discontent with what they have; always wanting “greener pastures.”

As with all sin, the sin of covetousness leads to loss: loss of contentment, loss of self-satisfaction, loss of appreciation for God’s gifts to us, and many times, the loss of personal gain.

The glitter of things is not the sin.  The sin is in not being happy with what God has given and wanting something else He chose not to give us.  Covetousness is spawned  today by television’s ads tempting us to get something bigger and better than what we have; or fads to prod us to get something else; or even peer pressure to persuade us that what we have is not good enough. Our covetousness, no matter how we are tempted, is still sin.  It had led to loss and separation from friend, family, and God for this prodigal son that Jesus spoke of 2,000 years ago, and it will do the same today.

The good news this parable teaches is if you have been led by your lusts to do wrong, there is a way back: repentance.  Turn from your sin, as did the prodigal son, and turn back to where God placed you originally.  God could have given you all the riches in the world, but he knows that perhaps you are not ready for them, or could never handle them.  Trust Him.  He knows what is best for your life.  He will forgive and will accept you back, as did the father his prodigal in the parable in Luke.

"Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and happy purchase." — J. Balguy

This article was featured in The Bible View #122.
This article was again featured in The Bible View #388.

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