Why in most English Bibles is the section Luke 15:11-31 given the title "The parable of the lost son"? The titles are not part of scripture (a fact usually indicated somewhere in publishers small print). Where did that title come from? Was it a 'rhema' word on some occassion which a printer latched onto and its use spread? Then there are two other parables next to it. One is about someone looking for a sheep, another has someone looking for a coin.

However, is the 'lost' item the central object of these parables? Some people suggest that instead of "The parable of the lost son" a better title could be "The parable of the reckless father". In other words the focus should be on Jesus teaching us about the character of Father God, not on our misdemeanors!

There is also a third person in this parable. At the end of the parable how do these three people compare?

  • The youngest son comes out looking the best - cleaned up, smiling, teeth sparkling and feet dancing.
  • The eldest son is angry and bitter.
  • The father sorrowful, public image humiliated (Luke 15:20b), not wanting to go inside and rejoin the party.

In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus is describing how the Kingdom of Heaven operates. Some workers in a vineyard work all day, others work only part of the day. At the end of the day they all get paid the same - illustrating the reckless benevolence of Father God. When those who had worked the longest saw this they were angry and bitter. Spot the similarity with the father and sons parable?

Which brings me back to asking what is the main point of these parables, do commonly used titles mislead us? Are these parables really teaching us about the heart of Father God?

  • The eldest son did not know the heart of the father.
  • The workers did not know the heart of the owner.
  • The youngest son knew the heart of the father.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus puts it very plainly, its not the 'works' you do which matter but do you know Father God? Doing the will of Father God may be in response to a particular rhema word, but when he is silent do you know his heart and plan your day accordingly?

Finally back to the title with Hebrews 12:15
"See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

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