Jesus’s Parable of the Lost Son

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Luke 15:1-32, Luke 16:1-31

My favorite hymn is “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” by Joseph Hart in 1759. It has a beautiful backstory, cataloged in Hart’s short autobiography. The hymn’s lyrics, particularly the line “If you tarry till you’re better / You will never come at all,” marked a profound shift in my spiritual journey when I first heard it in college. My childhood faith was one focused on accepting Jesus. This new understanding of my faith was on God’s grace. I was struck suddenly by this hymn, realizing that I could not fix myself enough for God, but that He accepted me as I was because of Jesus. My sin was not enough to keep me away from God; my work and striving were not enough to endear me to Him. 

In today’s reading, these two lessons are woven together in the stories of Luke 15 and 16. The first chapter includes the stories of a lost sheep, coin, and son who are found and beloved. The second is the story of the proud son, manager, and Pharisee, who are challenged for their seemingly righteous behavior. 

Jesus tells three stories to start. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin both show a person striving to save a beloved single sheep or coin and rejoicing fully upon finding it. The sheep is one of a hundred, and the coin is one of ten. By emphasizing the value of a single sheep or coin, Jesus shows how His love is specifically for each of us, and how He rejoices over every one of His followers. 

The third story is perhaps the most famous: the parable of the prodigal son. This story illustrates the encompassing love of God, which is dependent neither on our sin to reject us nor our good works to endear us. Both sons in this parable need rescue: the youngest from his folly, the eldest from his self-righteousness. The fourth and fifth stories carry the theme of the elder brother further: perception of earthly right behavior and material wealth did not translate to spiritual well-being. The elder brother thought he deserved his father’s love more because of his behavior; the manager and the Pharisees focused their efforts on appearances and wealth over Jesus. 

Throughout these two chapters in Luke, God reveals the breadth of His mercy. God’s mercy is for the sinners and the ever-striving saints, who are equally eligible to receive God’s love and similarly incapable of earning it. 

This is the beauty of the gospel: it is for anyone who believes. Joseph Hart ends his hymn with a reminder for all of us: All the fitness He requireth / Is to feel your need for Him / This He gives you / This He gives you / ‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

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58 thoughts on "Jesus’s Parable of the Lost Son"

  1. Brandy Deruso says:

    Lord we thank you for all you do in Jesus name!

  2. Ada McCloud says:

    I need to study the dishonest manager some more.

  3. trina beckwith says:

    Amen I loved this reading

  4. Kyle Hopkins says:

    Thank you @Buttonberry for your explanation of the Dishonest Manager parable!

  5. Hannah Brown says:

    I tend to be very judgmental and understand the older brother. I’ve said things like what if the dad would have said come let’s find your older brother so we can celebrate together. Then i heard a sermon about how we should be celebrating every single person who chooses Christ. I am trying to focus on that

  6. Terri Baldwin says:

    God’s Mercy is for sinners, sick, needy, everlasting striving saints who were equally eligible

  7. Brielle Hebert says:

    Jazmin S. – praying for you, sweet sister! God’s got this!

  8. Erica Romero says:

    Praying for you Jazmin. God will make a way.

  9. Darcy Autry says:

    I love the story of the prodigal son. I can see different times in my life when I have been each son and what a great reminder that each som needs just as much rescue as the other!

  10. Lexi B says:

    I am playing catch up and finally got to todays reading. Buttonberry, thank you for the explanation on the shrewd manager. I was always so confused by this parable, never fully understanding it. This was a huge help!

  11. Holly Shelton says:

    So good and just what I needed when my teen told us of a bad choice she made. The Lord is calling the sinner home with open arms.

  12. Holly says:

    I never realized both sons needed rescue. I knew the older one had the wrong outlook but I had never thought of it before in terms of him needing rescue too. I love that insight.

    Also, realizing that Jesus truly did it all for us and we do not have to be fixed before we come to God was such a huge part of my growing in my faith when I first realized it years ago. I think it is what non-Christians have the hardest time with. When my non-Christian friends self-righteously or even gleefully point out a prominent Christian’s sin I always tell them, that is the most amazing part of Christianity in my mind, that God still loves us and does not remember our sins. They tend to miss that part but I am always hopeful it will get through for them to see how amazing Jesus is and how merciful God is.

  13. Alayna P. says:


  14. Christine F says:


  15. Shannon Lowry says:

    Celebrating your dedication Aimee !!

  16. Susan Lincks says:


  17. Aimee Rogers says:

    Well I am still at it. I know it’s only 19 days but I have caught up and kept up. I enjoy reading every one’s post but, I admit it gets a little confusing. I read responses to someone’s prayer request but never see the original post. There was talk about starting a Facebook group or something. Look me up and friend request me. Aimee Boisot Rogers.

  18. Claire B says:


  19. Kenya Rafferty says:

    God never has and never will expect perfection. In fact, He knows it’s not possible so he desires so greatly for us to come to him in admittance of this truth – that we aren’t perfect. That we have sinned and messed up. That we need help. This is when we begin to feel his love – in the idea and truth that we are not enough on our own.

  20. Lara-Turiya Molitschnig says:

    Such a beautiful devotional. I also felt bad first for the older brother, although I can identify myself much more with the younger prodigal son. So this parable provides me with hope and joy about Gods mercy and compassion for his lost sheep. But reading todays scripture what stood out to me was the fathers pleading with his older son “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.“ I think these words are beautiful. It is like he does love him but does not need to worry about him, cause he already was and is and will be with him. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

  21. Natasha R says:

    Jazmin S., your steadfast faith is inspiring. I pray that God provides for you quickly and abundantly so you can enjoy life with your daughter.

  22. Rachel Evers says:

    Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much. You cannot serve both God & money. Good reminders for me.

  23. Mercy says:

    So many concise and valuable lessons the Lord taught us through these two chapters. Thank you Cee Gee & Buttonberry for the insightful explanations you gave. That unjust steward also got my attention. The Lord commended this shrewd man as being very wise when he pardoned other’s people debts (Luke 16:8). And another point that got me to pause was, if one’s pocketbook is not at God’s disposal, one’s heart is probably not surrendered to God either (Luke 16:11). Both concern significantly the money tying to the heart. True discipleship does involve financial commitment-which is the first test/the least in God’s sight. May our heart be attached to the Lord, the true wealth.

    @Victoria E: I am so sorry that things seem rough and uncertain right now, praying for you that all will be okay. Have hope sister.
    @Dorothy: health for Kaylee’s family.
    @Jazmin S: praying for you and your daughter, work permit situation.
    @Sharon Jersey Girl: for your 2 dear sons to return by God’s leading
    @Laura: for your 2 daughters and family reconciliation
    @Taylor: I recommend Dave Ramsey’s books, especially the “Total money makeover”- bible based teachings on finance principles. I borrowed a book by Dave from my local library and was totally blown away. His principles were taught in several churches, military schools, etc. to help families escape the bondage of debt. Praying for you.
    @Molly R: how’s your mom and dad doing after his surgeries? how is their mental state?
    @Angie Mills: you are missed. I pray you are doing well <3

    Be blessed dear shes.
    Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid, neither be dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).

  24. Donna Wolcott says:

    Thank you dear Shepherd for always finding me when I’m lost! Amen.

  25. Annie says:

    Such a great reminder in that hymn – all God wants is for us to recognize our need for Him and submit our will to His.

  26. PamC says:

    Wonderful Melanie…and fellow She’s. Your notes, & comments have enlightened me tremendously this morning (they do most mornings)…I also want to thank the designers on the study book this time. I’ve been able to write the relevant notes, comments right alongside the verses and then still have room for prayer requests, etc. I had a slow start on this study, but I’m totally loving it now. Thanks everyone! Praying in agreement with all of you.

  27. Dorothy says:

    Melanie’s devotional really “hit home” today. How many times have I thought I am sooo much better than this person or that person because I go to church regularly or study my Bible or do daily devotionals? WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! God, Christ and the Holy Spirit DON’T love me any more or any less then those who don’t do these things. It was when Melanie point out how the eldest son needed rescuing “from his self-righteousness” that I too need that a great deal. Melanie put new insight on a parable that I never thought of — thank you Melanie — and thank You God for opening my mind and heart to seeing it that way.

    I would like to add to my prayer request for Kaylee, now mom and dad, Sirena and Sean, are sick with fevers.

    Be blessed and let us realize NONE of is better than the other if we BELIEVE in the RESURRECTION and that Christ is God’s Son and in the Holy Spirit. BELIEVE sisters and have FAITH.

  28. Traci Gendron says:

    I feel like I’ve been both sons at different times. I never thought of the older son as self righteous…ouch. I need to take a long look at myself on that note.

    LAURA – Sin that is encouraged and celebrated by the world is very dangerous and will tear families apart. I agree with your comment. And it is so hard because our world seems to be celebrating sinful behavior more than ever.

    RHONDA J – I was also struck by the story “if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”

  29. Jennifer AndersMiller says:

    Praying for you and your sons.

  30. Lolly Regan says:

    Lord I pray you help me to be faithful ❤️

  31. Carly S says:

    I’ve read the Parable of the Lost Son many times before, but when I got to Luke 16 I felt like I had never read it! I spent a lot of time this morning on that, particularly the verse that says “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” (Vs 10). It really convicted me this morning, to think about my faithfulness.
    Anyways, I’ve been reading through comments and praying for all of you! Hope everyone has a great day.

  32. Jazmin S. says:

    Today’s reading was hard for me. I’m in the middle of possibly losing my job in the next week and not being able to work once that happens (my work permit is expiring) so that means I won’t have the money to be able to keep or provide for my daughter (trying to get her back from care). So after sitting with the reading it was like what am I going to trust? That my money and provision comes from the world or from God? And I know God loves me and he’s a provider and he’s faithful but my human mind keeps bringing up doubt and fear. Here’s Jesus saying relationships are worth more than money, he’s saying no matter what happens he’s got me, no matter how much doubt or fear I have he’s still there. So instead of focusing on the worst that can happen, I need to keep my eyes on him and my relationship with him. God is faithful!

  33. Mari V says:

    Good morning everyone. Victoria E,  I went back to yesterday’s comments to find out what’s going on. Please know I stopped to pray for you and I hope you get good results from the doctor.. And I also pray you get some energy to make it through work.

  34. Carol Crossman says:

    This devotional is a mirror to examine my heart.

  35. Sharon, Jersey Girl says:

    I was that prodigal son a long time ago. I am so grateful and blessed that God sought me when I went astray. He took me from a broken road that was leading to destruction and put me on a path that lead to full time ministry. Only God can accomplish that! Now, many years later I pray for my two prodigal sons that were raised in a ministry home but chose to go a different path than what God had for them. Every time I read this passage – it gives me hope that one day they will return. Please pray for my two adult sons (Nicholas & Jonathan) to come back to the faith they were raised in, to the faith they once had when they were young. Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)

  36. Laura says:

    This section of scripture always encourages my heart and the devotional was beautiful today in how the author put it all together. I have been praying for my prodigal daughter for years now and the chasm between us is even greater than before. But I trust God to continue to pursue her and search for her like the lost sheep and coin. She came back once, somewhat like the prodigal son, when her life fell apart financially, but her heart was not changed, she came back out of financial need and nothing else. Now I hear that she is doing okay financially. She has found a way to make it, and is “happy” although she is running after the wrong things, a sinful life and has rejected her family because we have spoken out against her choices. My older daughter is a bit like the older brother, I’m afraid. WHEN my youngest daughter comes back (and I believe that she will, Praise God), my oldest daughter’s heart will need to be soft, because she is very much like the older brother. She has done everything “right” and has taken the brunt of her sister’s wrath. It is my daily prayer that my family will be healed and that God will draw her to Himself and therefore, she will come back to her family. Sin that is encouraged and celebrated by the world is very dangerous and will tear families apart. Our family is living proof of that.

  37. Buttonberry says:

    DAHIANA FERNANDEZ, I looked in my study Bible for clarification on Luke 16:9 as it was unclear to me too. This is the note:
    “The unjust steward used his master’s money to buy earthly friends; believers are to use their Master’s money in a way that will accrue friends for eternity—by investing in the kingdom gospel that brings sinners to salvation, so that when they arrive in heaven (“an everlasting home”), those sinners will be there to welcome them. Christ did not commend the man’s dishonesty; He pointedly called him “unjust” (v. 8). He only used him as an illustration to show that even the most wicked sons of this world are shrewd enough to provide for themselves against coming evil. Believers ought to be more shrewd, because they are concerned with eternal matters, not just earthly ones. Cf. 12:33; Matt. 6:19–21.”
    Hope this helps!

  38. Linda J says:

    Love these teaching parables and Melanie’s devo. I am always struck by Luke 15:20 that tells us the father saw his son when he was still far away. He never stopped watching for him to return. Just as God watches for His children (me) and welcomes us when we turn and return. So much insight and wisdom in these parables.

  39. Allison Bentley says:

    We all need Jesus- the righteous, the unrighteous ! Todays readings reminds me of the Danny Gokey song “We all need Jesus” the sooner we realize this the better we will be! So grateful for this study!

  40. Jeanie Mclellan says:

    Thank you, God that I was lost but have been found

  41. Michelle Patire says:

    The most beautiful part of the prodigal son story. We don’t receive an inheritance until someone dies. The son demands the inheritance while the father is still alive… Basically saying, “you’re dead to me, I rather have your stuff than you.” And how much love is lavished on him despite his attitude . It is convicting. As I watch my siblings make awful decisions before God, the Lord says, “you can love them like I loved this reckless son in the story.” This story is always moving. “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him, the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6 REV
    Lord, I thank you for your mercy.

  42. Rhonda J. says:

    Good morning She’s!

    I too, I had always felt bad for the older brother that had stayed faithful to his father, but maybe it is that his heart wasn’t in the right place and that he was striving by “works only” to please his father for gain? When compared to the Pharisees in this way it makes more sense. I always think of a parent that loves their kids equally although they have different personalities and adhere to the rules or not. I certainly was the “make my own path,” prodigal girl being the baby of the family. I am so grateful for a Savior that comes for the lost, the strong-willed, disillusioned ones as myself.

    I also struck by the one in Hades asking for him to go to his brother to tell him, and the replay that if he hadn’t listened to Moses and the prophets he wouldn’t listen now. I pray Lord that I can make an impact on those that refuse to believe, those love ones I want to believe and come to Jesus. It breaks my heart that they may never find Jesus until it’s too late and they are stuck on the other side.

    Hoping for a great day for each of you and prayers always.

  43. Cee Gee says:

    This reading helps me to wrap my head
    around the attitude of the Jewish leaders. For generations they were taught to uphold the letter of the law. They didn’t/couldn’t understand that Jesus wasn’t taking anything out of the ‘recipe’ of the law. Rather He was adding a new and special ingredient – GRACE! Thank You, Jesus, for the gift of grace to ALL who choose to receive it!!!

  44. Dahiana Fernandez says:

    9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:9. I found this verse to be so odd and I had never heard this parable before. Is it saying that we should be the ones to accept people with open arms after others have failed us?

  45. LeAnn Schmitt says:

    Beautiful devotional. So much wisdom in the old hymns. Thank you Father God for your grace.

  46. Theresa says:

    Lately I have found myself unable to respond to a call God has placed on my heart because I felt like the ask is more than I can do. This morning’s devotion confirmed the work that God has been doing in my life. A step in the right direction is still obedience and God will always meet us there to bring us the rest of the way. If I wait until I judge myself “fully ready” I will never go at all. I was struck in the parable of the prodigal son by how the Father ran to meet his lost son and would have walked with him the rest of the way home. That is the God we serve! He is waiting and watching and when we respond in obedience to him, we aren’t met with “that wasn’t enough”. We are met with a loving Father’s embrace and a guide who walks with us the rest of the way. Thank you, Jesus!

  47. Cee Gee says:

    MELANIE RAINER – What a beautiful job connecting these parables and the words to your favorite hymn! Thank you!

    NOTES PROVIDED on the Scripture links above:

    15:28 became angry – Instead of rejoicing that his lost brother was found, the older brother responds with resentment. This attitude reflects the scribes (teachers of the law) and Pharisees’ complaint about Jesus’ fellowship with sinners (v. 2).

    did not want to go in – The older brother refuses to join the celebration in the house.

    15:29 have never disobeyed your command -Possibly intended to reflect the thinking of the scribes (teachers of the law), Pharisees, and perhaps other Jews who considered themselves righteous and were bothered by the warm welcome that Jesus gave to those they classified as sinners (vv. 1–2).

    15:30 this son of yours – The older brother avoids calling the younger son “my brother.”

  48. Danielle B says:

    Ooofh! I’ve not liked the parable of the prodigal son for a few years now. I’ve commented to others, but what about the older brother and how he feels not receiving recognition for all his hard work and faithfulness. I’m happy the younger brother returned, but upset that the older brother doesn’t seem valued. You see I’m the older brother and my sibling has been the prodigal for many years. I’ve never had anyone say the older brother’s issue is self-righteousness. That statement will sit with me for awhile and I’ll be processing and praying over it. Thank you Melanie for helping me see this parable in a new light.

  49. Taylor says:

    Thank you, Melanie Rainer, for a wonderful devotion! I copied down so much of it in my small journal I was practically writing on top of my other comments :) So true that even in our striving to be “perfect” or “righteous” is exactly where we need Jesus to remind us that it is only by HIS mercy and grace we are saved. This devotion also convicts me of my obsession over money. Being about 2 years out of grad school in heaping debt with student loans and adding a car loan on top of it since I need to have reliable transportation for my job has my head spinning most days. I need to trust that the Lord will provide for my every need, including one day being debt-free. Thank you Lord for convicting my heart to help me rely more deeply on You. I hope everyone has a blessed day <3

  50. Elaine Morgan says:


  51. Searching says:

    So thankful Christ was waiting with open arms when I came to my senses! I read through these Scriptures with new eyes this morning after seeing how the devotion pulled them together.

    KELLY (NEO) – yes, so thankful for His grace

    LARA-TURIYA MOLITSCHNIG – in the app, I’ve noticed that comments post if you click enter/return to start a new paragraph. Someone mentioned previously that they create their comment in their notes and then copy/paste it so that might work for you.

    VICTORIA E – praying for you, dear friend, in the waiting for the results and that you can feel the arms of our Savior around you. He’s in the healing business for brokenness, sadness and all the things we struggle with, and will walk with you day by day. ❤️

    BRI – you and I are on the same page. Praying for Damar and others that have a lot of visibility to come to know Christ and spread the good news.

    DOROTHY – praying for Kaylee’s family
    REBECCA W – thank you for sharing that answered prayer
    CHURCHMOUSE – agree with choice of words, glimpse of God’s glory.
    ALAYNA P – praying for your aunt, and your cousin’s children and parents in their grief
    MIRANDA – praying for wisdom, guidance and endurance

  52. Aimee D-R says:

    Lord help me to stop striving and give You control. In Jesus name, Amen

  53. Erica Christian says:

    The parable of the lost sheep has brought me so much comfort since I was saved in 2017. I know what it is like to be lost, separated from my family and my Shepherd but God is so good. I took one step towards Him and He met me where I was. He brought me back into the fold and I am thankful everyday for Jesus!

  54. Tasha Colley says:

    I have read this scripture multiple times, yet I never saw the connection between them all. This was incredibly helpful to see how Jesus showcased all types of people and their journey to him. We are all eligible but equally undeserving. YET, his Grace is sufficient!! Praise!!

  55. Miranda says:

    Good morning She’s! Long-time reader, first time commenting… I’m so thankful to be able to gain wisdom from y’all each morning and honored to pray for all of you.

    I felt moved to make my first comment today – while I’m truly blessed in life, this year is off to a rocky start. Asking for prayers for healing, strength, and direction.

  56. Amber Murray says:

    The parable of the manager and of the rich man/lazarus spoke to me heavily this morning. I feel like this is the first time I’ve read them, maybe because it’s the CSB translation vice what I’m used to… those are extremely impactful though. We have this life to become sanctified, turn, repent and then spend eternity with God. It’s our choice and He will come after us, be there for us when we turn.

  57. Kelly (NEO) says:

    “God’s mercy is for the sinners and the ever-striving saints, who are equally eligible to receive God’s love and similarly incapable of earning it.”

    It seems at times that I need God’s grace more after salvation! If resist the Spirit or just flat out disobey, am I not worse off than the one who does not have the indwelling Spirit at all?

  58. Rebecca W says:

    So glad His mercy is for me regardless of my self righteousness or my sin. Thank you Jesus that you search to find every last one of us! Prayers for all my sisters.