“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

In my parents’ backyard was a small white frame building my dad called his tool house. It was equipped with a workbench about 8 feet long, with scrap lumber stored underneath. Plenty of shelving held old cans of paint and miscellaneous hardware collected through the years, along with nails, screws, etc. stored in coffee cans.

I recall my dad saying, “I like to take junk and turn it into something useful.”

What Jesus loved to do

During Jesus’ ministry He was denounced for spending time with people the Pharisees had no use for. He earned a reputation as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). This was meant as a criticism, but aren’t we thankful He is?

Many consider the story of the Prodigal Son His greatest parable. He told it in response to the complaint, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

On another occasion Jesus explained why He spent so much time with people like this: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

When He went to the home of Zacchaeus the tax collector, again His critics grumbled, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus replied, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The Master Carpenter

Jesus delighted in taking castoffs and transforming them into something beautiful, as well as useful.

He did it then.

He’s still doing it.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Many believe it’s the greatest story Jesus ever told: the dramatic parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). What can we learn from the beautiful reunion of a loving father and his wayward son?

Reconciliation depends on repentance (our part).

Though the word repentance is not found in the story, it is obvious that the Prodigal was truly penitent. Once he humbled his willful heart, he was ready to go home. His words, “I have sinned,” are not just appropriate, they are essential.

Reconciliation depends on grace (God’s part).

The Prodigal knew he was in no position to demand anything. Whatever his father might be willing to give him would be better than what he had, which was nothing.

Reconciliation calls for a celebration!

The father graciously granted him a royal welcome, complete with robe, ring, shoes, and a party! This is one of the best illustrations of grace in the Bible!

Reconciliation is horizontal as well as vertical.

The glum attitude of the elder brother casts a long shadow on the celebration. Not only was he unwilling to be reconciled to his brother, but he himself felt estranged from his own father. Self-righteousness is both ugly and self-defeating.

Why this story?

The main reason Jesus told this story was to help the Pharisees understand why He chose to spend time with those for whom they had no use (verses 1-3). Like the Prodigal, these sinners were coming home. Like the elder brother, the Pharisees could not understand God’s heart for reconciliation.

When God receives a sinner home, so should we!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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Going Out of Our Way

Admirable actions

The Good Samaritan did something the priest and Levite were unwilling to do. He went way out of his way, expending time, effort, and money to aid the wounded traveler. He was willing to be seriously inconvenienced (Luke 10:25-37).

The father of the Prodigal didn’t wait for his son to come to him—he ran to meet him! He threw a big party in his joy over his son’s return. The elder brother was anything but happy about his father’s giving his younger brother such a lavish homecoming (Luke 15:11-32).

The master of the servant who owed him millions of dollars cancelled the entire debt. He didn’t have to do this—he chose to. The forgiven servant, however, was not willing to pass on the grace he had received. He insisted that a fellow servant pay him what he owed, turning a deaf ear to his pleas for mercy, which echoed his own pitiful pleading when he himself had begged his master to be patient with him (Matthew 18:21-35).

Marked contrasts

The priest and Levite, the elder brother, and the unforgiving servant are cold and cruelly uncaring. In contrast, the Good Samaritan, the welcoming father, and the merciful master show warmth, love, and grace.

Admirable attitude

One word all three parables have in common is compassion (Matthew 18:27; Luke 10:33; 15:20). Compassion is what moved the master to forgive his servant, the Samaritan to stop and help, and the father to run out to meet his returning son.

Is it any wonder that this same word compassion is used numerous times of our Lord (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13)?

Can others see by our actions a reflection of His compassionate heart?

pushing wheelchair-tagged

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Where Repentance Begins

Thinking at its best

“And when he came to himself . . .” (Luke 15:17). The Prodigal Son was now tasting the bitter fruit of his foolishness. Having hit bottom, he made up his mind to go home.

Honest self-examination is one of the hardest but one of the best things we can do. Since repentance involves a change of mind, thinking is critical.

We must make time to think.

Thoughtless living

To be saved we must repent (Acts 17:30-31). But how can we repent if we don’t think?

Satan knows that. If we let him distract us with entertainment, pleasure, or busy-ness, when will we ever get around to reflecting on our sins?

Have we, like the Prodigal, come to ourselves?

Like him, our story can have a happy ending.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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God’s Choices and Our Choices

The son’s choices: bad and good

Both father and son made two choices (Luke 15:11-32).

The son decided to leave home. His father gave him the inheritance he demanded—and watched him go.

But when the son lost everything, he turned his feet toward home.

The Father’s gracious choice

The father chose to give his penitent son a huge welcome–robe, ring, shoes, party—the whole shebang.


God lavishes His grace on us not because we deserve it—we don’t—but because He loves us.

The son’s choice to leave was met with the father’s choice to let him go. The son’s choice to return was met with the father’s choice to welcome him with a big celebration.

Our choices determine God’s choices. He lets us go if we leave. But when we come home….

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