The Lost Son – Part 1 : Why Men are Born Sinners?

WHY MEN ARE BORN SINNERS?

The parable of the lost son in Luke Chapter 15 dramatically shows a scene in which a person meets Jesus Christ through true repentance. This parable hides profounder meanings than we generally know of it.

Let’s get started with Luke 15:11-32.

[Luke 15:11-32]
11  And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.


This parable is very common to most of people whether they are Christians or not. The famous painter Rembrandt painted a picture entitled “Returning of the Prodigal Son” in which the father receives the younger son graciously.

Many preachers illustrated many times the love of the father who gladly accepted the younger son, by quoting this text. We generally become to be thankful to the father’s forgiveness and everlasting love when we hear it, and some of us resolve in their mind to be obedient to their fathers.

However, this parable does not describe the father who welcomes the younger son with love even though he came back after having squandered his money in dissolute living. This parable speaks us the deep truth of life. That is, the younger son who returned to his father discloses what the true repentance towards God is, and the comparison of the younger son to the older son clearly uncovers the differences between the law and the grace.

Also, the course in which the younger son left the house of his father reveals the reason why Adam had to eat the forbidden fruit, and the fundamental reason why all mankind, after Adam, had to live hard life on this earth that produces thorns and thistles.

Every word and parable in the Bible is precious and valuable, and the parable of the lost son is the most precious and valuable one of them all, I allege. This ordinary parable has all the wonderful truths you could not find even if you had spent your whole life. 

I will explain three major topics here.
Firstly, I will describe the fundamental reason why each person has to leave God and is born to be a sinner, by explaining the course in which the younger son leaves the house of the father.
Secondly, I will tell you what the true repentance is by quoting the return of the younger son.
Lastly, I will clarify the difference between the law and the gospel (grace), which is hard to understand, by comparing the older son who stayed home to the younger son.

WHY ARE MEN BORN SINNERS?

First of all, we will study the reason why men are born as sinners through the parable.

Why did the Younger Son Want to Leave Home?

Characters in this parable include a father, an older son, and a younger son. In this instance, the father symbolizes God, the home symbolizes the kingdom of God where God abides, and the older and younger sons symbolize believers, i.e., Christians, who serve God as their Father.

The believers can be divided into two groups: some believers belong to the older son group who did not leave home, and other believers belong to the younger son group who left home and came back again.

The head of the home where the younger son lives is the father. The father as a head of household has the final decisions over all household affairs. The sons must accept the father’s decisions even though in some cases they do not agree to those decisions, because they are not the head of the household. One optional way available to them when they do not agree with him, is to leave home.

The younger son in the parable made up his mind to leave. It was the younger son himself who decided to go out, considering that the father did not ask him to do so. He came into conflict with the life of being obedient to the father’s headship. He disliked it.

Of course, he was not in trouble with the father regarding such the trivial problems of one time. Such problems are not so valuable or worthless as to be written in the Bible, which carries the fundamental issues of human life.

The conflict with the father that caused the younger son to leave home was fundamental. We can read one example of that conflict in the latter part of the parable. When the younger son had returned home, the father gladly received him and they began to be merry.

However, the older son who had been in the field got angry at what his father did. He thought that it was not right for his father to celebrate the brother who had run through his father’s money with harlots.

But, it is natural for the father to have festivities in that situation. He can make room for the older son for anything else, but except the present case. This conflict is very fundamental. The fundamental conflict cannot be settled even though one of two parts has given room to the other part. It will remain until it has been solved fundamentally.

The younger son wanted to be separated from his father and to live an independent life rather than enduring the conflict in his mind. He thought it would be better for him if could live his own individual life, and he then came to a determination. He would have pondered many times until reaching that determination.

He would have considered fears of facing the strange world after having left home, and would have also thought that once left, it would not be easy to return home again for many other reasons. However, all these were not so serious compare to the current life that is given under the dominion of his father. So he left.

The younger son was able to leave his father and be independent from his father by himself because of the wisdom he had. That is, he decided to leave home since he had wisdom by which he thought that he could do better and could lead a better life than under his father’s control. He tried to have the headship, being confident that his wisdom could compare to that of his father.

Even though the wisdom made the younger son to leave home ultimately, the wisdom of the younger son was given by nature. The wisdom that the younger son had as a son of the father has the same quality as that of the father.

Thus, they can be compared to each other. No house-dog, for example, can rise in revolt against its lord and leave him because it has no such wisdom and no such power at all. We can conclude now that the younger son could have left home because he had wisdom.

The Process for Adam to Leave the Eden

The course for the younger son to leave home in Luke 15 matches the course for Adam to leave the garden in Eden in Genesis. The two courses are substantially the same in nature. Many of us will now wonder how the lost son and Adam are connected, when I said that the parable of the lost son and the description on Adam contain the same message. We will find no connection between them if we read the scriptures but only to catch literal meanings. 

However, ponder them in detail and in depth, and we will get to know that the lost son is equal to Adam. As the younger son left home because of the wisdom, Adam also left God because of the wisdom.

Let me explain more of Adam’s wisdom. God created Adam in His image, and Adam was a very wise creature after His likeness (Ezek 28:12). Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge, which God forbade and left the Eden that was God’s dwelling place, and the fundamental reason why Adam ate the forbidden fruits was due to his wisdom.

As for the course for Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge, the serpent tempted the woman, she gave it to her husband, and he did eat. Because of the fundamental temptation by the serpent, Adam and the woman ate the fruit and walked on the way of disobedience after that.

They would not have eaten if it had not been for the serpent. What was the real nature of the serpent that had done bad thing, which led all mankind to astray?

The serpent in the scriptures represents wisdom spiritually. Let us look at Genesis verse:

[Genesis 3:1]
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Here, the term of “subtil” is translated from the Hebrew word of “aruwm” which means ‘wise’ or ‘prudent.’ According to the context, this word is translated negatively like “crafty” (Job 5:12 or Job 15:5) and positively like “prudent” (Prov. 12:16, 23). The word “aruwm” here was naturally rendered in the negative, since it was used to describe the serpent that is the common enemy (?) of all human beings.

The Greek word aruwm in the scripture can be rendered both in the positive and in the negative. Therefore, the word aruwm in this text could be put into ‘prudent’, if we could get rid of our existing negative eyes on the serpent.

Have I gone too far? I do not think so. The serpent was not created in the negative. No creatures in the world are created absolutely negative, but they relatively are viewed negative or positive by the eyes of mankind. Differently from our eyes, Jesus was not prejudiced against the serpent. He says it is the symbol of wisdom.

[Matthew 10:16] Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

The serpent symbolizes wisdom in the scriptures. Accordingly, we should read Genesis 3:1 as; “Now the serpent was wiser than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made,” which mostly matches the biblical context.

It was the woman who was tempted first by the serpent, but I will go on saying with Adam’s name as he is the prototype of all mankind. Spiritually, the woman and Adam are one anyway. The fact that Adam was tempted by the serpent symbolizing the wisdom reveals that he had wisdom.

He agreed to what the external serpent said and then opened his internal mind since he had nature of the serpent in him. Hence, there is no need to blame the serpent as it tempted the man. Adam opened his mind because he was connected to the serpent, and therefore, it was Adam himself who was to be blamed.

Adam has the nature of the serpent since God created Adam to be wise. The wisdom is one of Adam’s fundamental attributes inseparable from himself. If we think the serpent is a fundamentally wicked being, it is required for us to explain how the serpent was in the garden in Eden.

However, there is no need to do so, because the serpent is the wisdom Adam has in him. Thus, where there is Adam, there is the serpent also, such as in heaven, on earth, or in the garden in Eden.

Because Adam has wisdom, he thinks of leaving the garden in Eden when God seems unacceptable to him. That wisdom is the question. Adam has secret confidence in him that he can do no less than God does and he can live a better life. He thinks in the same way as the lost son did before leaving the house of the father.

In this situation, Adam’s wisdom in him whispers to him as follows. “Do you know why God forbade you to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? It is because God was wary of your being like Himself, knowing both good and evil, when you eat it.” This dialogue is written in Genesis 3:

[Genesis 3:4-6]
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

If Adam had thought that his wisdom would never reach that of God, the serpent would have failed to tempt him. He would have refused the suggestion by the serpent outright by saying like this.  “How could I? I can never be like God even if I eat something better than the fruit of that tree.”

However, Adam had wisdom, and he accordingly concluded it would be possible for him to struggle with God. He ate of the tree after a long thought (Gen 3:6) and left the garden in Eden. He had to leave once he had eaten the forbidden fruit. Why?

Because that disobedience means that Adam knows more than God does and is smarter than He is. Thus Adam is separated from God because there can be no two masters in a family.

Adam was separated from God and had to live his own life out of Eden. The course for Adam to leave the Eden matches the course for the lost son to leave home.

Father who Let his Younger Son to Leave

The father let his younger son to leave home since the son was eager to do so. No father would allow his son to leave without hesitation. He would have dissuaded his younger son from leaving home with all his heart.

Since he knew that the son would have a very hard time there. However, it will be no longer sensible to persuade the son once he has made up his mind to be independent of his father. The father cannot catch the son’s mind even if he could have caught son’s body by force. The father let him go unavoidably since he had no other better way.

However, the father now letting him go, has one hope. That is, he hopes that the younger son will come back home after having experienced the true bitterness of the far country. Only with this hope in his mind, he lets the younger son to go.

God who Let Adam to Leave

We will now read the text in which Adam leaves the garden in Eden, which is comparatively quoted with the parable of the lost son. 
Records for Adam in Genesis Chapter 3 are as follows:

[Genesis 3:17-19]
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

We generally know that Adam was expelled from the garden in Eden as a punishment because he had disobeyed the commandment of God. But, it is not true. There is reason of the way it should be, why Adam had to leave Eden.

He was born in the garden in Eden at first place, and longed for the unknown world he had never undergone. The unknown world means the world where the human beings are living without God, and without obedience to the commandments of God. Adam who never experienced that world will be naturally lured by the world.

It may look good if Adam only stays in the garden in Eden, but it has a fundamental problem. If he only lives in Eden, he cannot recognize the Eden as Eden. He has to undergo another world so as to recognize the Eden as Eden. For example, we cannot recognize light as light if there is only light in this world. Light will be light when there is darkness.

If Adam lives only in Eden where he was created, he cannot recognize the joy of life in Eden, as he experienced no counterpart life, which is the life out of Eden. God knows that Adam will be made perfect after he left God. God overlooked when Adam left the garden in Eden.

How can we say that God overlooked Adam’s leaving?
First, God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden in Eden, so He provided a fundamental cause for Adam to leave the garden in Eden.

Second, God kept silent while Adam was eating the forbidden fruit, and He appeared only when he finished the eating. If God really wanted to prevent him from eating, He would not have put the tree of the knowledge in the center of the garden in Eden or He would have placed a sword whirling and flashing near the tree so that Adam may not hang around it. God did not do so.

In this context, God opened the way for Adam to eat of the tree and He overlooked the eating. Just as the Father in the Luke let the younger son to leave the house well and good.

Some people say that all of these were given to test the free will of Adam. He was fallen and was punished. Does God have any reason to test the free will of human beings and lead them into the life full of trials and troubles? God does not test us for the purpose of testing us, but He raises us with His power of life. Adam’s eating of the tree of the knowledge is the course of God’s creation, which will make Adam perfect after all. It does not mean that Adam disobeyed for a little while.

If we understand God’s plan properly, we will no longer make a meaningless resolution as follows: “I will never eat of the tree of the knowledge which Adam ate.” As mentioned earlier, we were born in this world because we already had eaten the fruit. So, our determination not to eat it has no meaning at all. Sorry! We have already eaten the fruit that we firmly determine not to eat.

Our question: “I’ve never eaten of the tree of the knowledge according to my will…”

In general, it is hard for us to admit that every one eats the fruit, because we think we have never seen it nor eaten. However, it is true that each of us ate it. We only cannot remember the fact. That’s all. The scriptures testify it through the story of Adam.

Let us look at Adam’s life. His life has two parts; one is ‘in Eden’ before eating fruit and the other is ‘out of Eden’ after eating the fruit.
So is our life. We do not begin our existences when we are born in this world. Before we are born, we stayed with God in Eden as spiritual beings. Thus, each of us who were once in Eden came to this world with a human flesh. Therefore, our spirits/souls were already existed before we had a body.

Further, once we ate of the tree of knowledge, then our entire life will be going on as such. For this reason, our current life in this world is going on based on the knowledge of good and evil all along. Anyhow, if we, as one of human being here, say, “I’ve never eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, it means that he is no man kind, which is absurd enough.

Far Country

Let’s get back to the parable of the lost son. The younger son leaves the house of his father and goes to a far country. When he was in the house of the father, the relationship between the father and himself was the life.

However, when he is in the far country, the relationship between the ruler and himself is the law. The relation of life is totally different from that of law. The former is connected with love unconditionally, and the latter is connected by give-and-takes that show another phase of the law.

The house of the father in the parable symbolizes the Kingdom of God where we will abide with Him when saved.

[Psalm 23:6]
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

On the contrary, the far country signifies the world where as many younger sons as having left the house of the father live their life by maintaining the system of the world by the law. It means the present world where we now live. The scriptures point out that the ruler of the world is the devil. The devil said as follows tempting Jesus:

[Luke 4:5-6] 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

[1John 5:19]
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

As read above, the devil says this world has been given to him, and under his control. John says the same point. The world in which we are living lies in the evil one. The world in this text does not represent the materialistic world we can see, but it indicates the world that is reflected in the mind of each human being, having left God.

This world is controlled by those having left God by making laws and rules, for the purpose of realizing their ideal. Therefore, the real one that rules this world is the human beings who have left God. The scriptures reveal that the human beings who control this world system are the evil ones. 

The persons living in this world are destined to be exploited, suppressed, curbed, robbed of and destroyed by the laws. The laws lead us to death. Both the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and the younger son in the parable of the lost son represent those who lived in the world of the law, failed to survive, and finally faced the death. The younger son longed for this world and came into it without proper awareness of all these things.

Adam left the Eden after eating the forbidden fruit, and he came to this world. We also came into this world following after Adam. In other word, we are born here as the younger sons who left the house of the father.

(Taken from the title “Fresh Eyes to Read the Bible I : with Added Illustrations – Biblical Steps for Growing in Faith”)

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