Most of my life I’ve assumed that this parable is about repentance and forgiveness. People get to the theme of repentance and forgiveness partly by focusing on the younger son, often called the prodigal son. People also get to this interpretation from verses 18 and 19. In those verses the starving younger son decides to go back home, confess the error of his ways, and beg daddy to take him back. Based largely on these two verses, most preachers and Sunday school teachers say this parable is about the younger son’s repentance and his father’s forgiveness. Many Bible commentaries accept this interpretation. It’s how most of us understand this parable. First the son sins; eventually he repents; and finally daddy forgives.
However, that is probably not the best interpretation. A better interpretation is that this parable is instead about losing and finding. Both the younger son and the older son get lost, while the father eagerly tries to find both of them again. The father wants both his sons to be integrated into family life, but the end of the parable suggests the father does not fully succeed in his quest.
- Luke 15:1 - 3
- Luke 15:11b - 32