“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’” (Luke 15:21, esv).
Before the prodigal son came to this moment of confession, a long, painful journey was taken. The boy started his trip thinking one way and ended up thinking very differently.
You may know the story, but this lesson from Jesus Himself is worth reading again. (See Luke 15:11–24.) Can you feel the attitude of the younger son in the parable? He came to his own father and essentially demanded, “Give me my inheritance. I don’t care—break up the family’s assets. I want what’s mine, and I want it now.”
“Hear the brokenness of the prodigal’s heart when he confessed his unworthiness.”
Who would that do to a father? If you say to your dad, “I want my inheritance today,” you’re saying, “I wish you were dead and I’m tired of waiting. Give me now what I get when you’re gone.”
That son was thinking like a hog, and then he went and lived like a pig—a filthy lifestyle that consumed him and his money. The Bible says he “squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13). The wisdom of Scripture often presents things delicately, but don’t lose the severity of what’s implied.
The immature man lived like a pig and then moved in with the swine. Understand that the only reason he was at the pig farm in the first place was because he was broke. When he had money, he bought friends; out of money, he was out of friends. He ended up with no one to turn to, “and no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16b). He ran out of options and could only get a job no one else wanted. Then he became so desperate and hungry that even the pig slop started to look appetizing.
Starving and shamed in the pigsty, repentance broke through this man’s rebellious mindset. Scripture says, “He came to his senses” (Luke 15:17a, nasb).
He had thought he was big-time, but he didn’t think that anymore. He assumed he was superior to his family, but he came to know better. He fancied himself smarter than God, but he was humbled. He came to the end of himself. The truth dawned and reality landed like a boulder on his head. In a flash, his thinking changed.
After he came to his senses the son headed home, contemplating what he would say to his father. To understand repentance, we must hear the brokenness of this son’s heart when he confessed, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:19, esv).
This is true repentance when we can say to God, “I’m not even worthy of what You have given me, God. Why are You still pursuing me? How could You love me that much?”
But that’s God. And that’s why He deserves our worship.
The last part of repentance is the rock-bottom awareness of unworthiness. It’s in the mind: “He came to his senses.” It’s in the emotions: “I am no longer worthy.” And it’s in the will—he headed home.
When repentance is happening in your heart, there has to be a turning from something before there is a believing in something. Some people try to believe without turning, but it doesn’t work that way.
You have to turn—that’s the repentance.
And you have to believe—that’s the Gospel.
This isn’t just the first step with Jesus, it’s every single step for the rest of your life: turning from the pigsty and believing in Jesus Christ, your Savior.
Lord, Your mercies are new every morning and Your faithfulness is beyond measure! How often have I come home dreading the admission of repentance only to have You take me in Your arms? Forgive me for any degree to which I’ve taken Your forgiveness for granted. Thank You for Your boundless love, forever echoed in every word and deed of Your Son. Thank You for the welcome of home—it’s like no other. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.