This is the third of the "Lost" trilogy in Luke 15. The first two were the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. This parable is a "gospel parable." The Good News is wrapped up in this little story in a beautiful and powerful way.
What are Parables?
Take this opportunity to teach your children what parables are. They are little stories Jesus told that teach us about the Kingdom of God. They are similar to fables in that they are stories with a deeper meaning. But fables give moral or ethical lessons. For example, the Tortoise and the Hare teaches us not to give up (if you are the tortoise) and not to be too full of yourself (if you are the hare). The Boy Who Cried Wolf teaches us that if we lie repeatedly, people won't believe us even when we are telling the truth. Parables teach us about life in the Kingdom of God, or life as a Christian.
In this parable, Jesus tells a story of a man with two sons. The son asked for his inheritance early, left home and squandered all his money on wild living. Essentially, the son tells the father, "I wish you were dead already. I don't care about you, I just want your money." But the son ran out of money very quickly. Give a fool money, and he is still a fool.
He ends up working for a farmer, feeding his pigs and finally comes to his senses when he finds himself really wanting to eat the slop he is feeding the pigs. He realizes that the servants working for his father's house are probably living far better than he is, so he decides to go back to his father and beg to be allowed to be a servant in his household. His father, however, sees him coming from a distance off, has compassion on him and goes running to meet him. The father throws a big party in honor of his son returning.
An oft-forgotten part of the story is about the older brother. He never treated his father that way. He didn't squander his money. He never left home. When he saw his father giving special treatment to the son who returned home, he became angry and jealous. He refused to go to the party. His father, however, tells him that it is appropriate to celebrate "because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." (Luke 15:32)
This is a great story to talk about the concept of repentance. Repentance is admitting that what you have done is wrong, asking for forgiveness, and changing your behavior. Repentance is a key concept for children to learn. Concepts are difficult for children to learn at this age, which is why teaching it using this story works so well!
The Kingdom lesson in this parable: All of us are like the lost son. We have sinned against God the Father. But he loves us and welcomes us back to him, no matter what we've done. All we have to do is ask him to forgive our sins and believe in his death on the cross and his resurrection as the payment for our sins!
get your kids talking and engaged
What is the most disgusting thing you've ever eaten?
Today, we're going to learn about a parable (or story) that Jesus told about a son who left home and actually wanted to eat pig slop!
teach a holistic story
Teach the children what a parable is (see the Story Summary above)
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.
give them basic Bible skills
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Luke 15:11-32
make sure they understand the story
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?
help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
hide God's Word in their heartBe kind and tender to one another. Forgive each other, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done. Ephesians 4:32