What is the Parable of the Lost Son?

The Parable of the Lost Son (also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son) is one of Jesus’ best-known parables.

In the story, we learn about the relationship between a father and his two sons. The plot centers around the younger son, who, impatient and greedy, asks his father for his inheritance. The father agrees, but the son wastes his money, eventually becoming homeless and destitute.

To the son’s great surprise, he is welcomed back into the family by his father and brother. If you’d like to read the Parable of the Lost Son yourself, it appears in Luke 15:11-32. Or, you can scroll down to read our overview.

What is a parable?

A parable is a short, memorable tale designed to teach whoever reads it a moral lesson they can apply to their daily life.

Parables use relatable stories to illustrate broader points about issues of morality, such as forgiveness, loss, redemption, temptation, and mercy. The word “parable” comes from the Greek “parabole,” which means to “compare or illustrate.”

There are at least 36 parables in the Bible, and these can be broken down into specific themes, such as hearing, seeking, and growing; love and forgiveness; and prayer. Along with the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Son is part of a trilogy of Bible stories that touch on themes of loss and redemption.

The Parable of the Lost Son for kids

Here is a simple retelling of the Parable of the Lost Son for kids:

There once was a father and two sons. One day, the youngest son asked his father for his share of the brothers’ inheritance. The father was unsure but decided to give both brothers their inheritance money.

At first, the youngest son was delighted. Then, finally, for the first time in his life, he had plenty of money, and he could spend it however he pleased!

Not long after, though, the youngest son ran out of money, squandering it all. With no money and no home, the youngest son’s only choice was to find a job. But the only one he could see was feeding pigs, which he didn’t like.

So, in desperation, he decided to go home and ask his father for a job as a servant. When the son returned, his father hugged and kissed him and welcomed him back into the family home. The youngest son was surprised, having expected his father to be angry and reproachful. But instead, the father gave his son the finest robes, sandals, and even a ring to wear. He also threw a big party to celebrate his son’s safe return.

Seeing his father’s happiness at his younger brother’s return, the second brother became upset and angry. He thought it was unfair that his younger brother should make such a big mistake only to be rewarded for it. So he refused to go to the party.

Noticing his eldest child’s disapproval, the father told him:

You are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger is lost, and now he is found.

What can children learn from the story?

In the Parable of the Lost Son, the father shows that he loves his youngest son unconditionally.

The son’s transgressions were forgiven because he returned, and to his father, that was all that mattered. So, in a Christian context, the moral of the story is that no matter what you’ve done, God will forgive you if you’re willing to be humble and own up to your mistakes.

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