Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Prodigal Son in Christian Recovery

The story of the Prodigal Son as described in Luke 15:11-32 is a perfect example of the Father’s patient and enduring love. Children in Sunday School are told this story to help them see God the Father in more human terms. As we mature in our Christianity, the story of the Prodigal Son can take on even deeper meaning.

Many of us have wandered from God and found ourselves to be prodigals, and many have had children raised in the church who drifted away and into the world. In these cases, the story represents the struggles of those who left the safety and comfort of their father’s house in search of the worldly life that offered the freedom they thought they needed.

In early as the second sentence of the Prodigal Son story, we see that the son was intent on leaving: His mind had been made up – the father knew that there was no room for discussion, so he gave his son the money. The prodigal left his father’s house without any regrets and began to live the life that the world offered.

Different versions of the Bible describe the son’s life while in the world as wild, reckless, loose, wasteful, undisciplined and riotous. From these adverbs we can make some assumptions, especially when we’re looking at the story of the Prodigal Son as it relates to Christian recovery in modern times.

The prodigal son felt free to do what he wanted. He didn’t want the constraints of his father’s house. He wanted to make his own rules and to live by his own standards. He wanted to do things his way. Today, wild, wasteful and reckless living usually includes abuse of alcohol and/or drugs. Since the prodigal son started off with lots of money and ended up broke, there’s no doubt that he wasted it on partying and sharing with those of like mind. People used him, and when the money ran out, they abandoned him.

The famine made things worse. Broke and without work, the Prodigal Son reached his bottom when he began to feed the pigs and wish he could eat their food. These dire circumstances brought the Prodigal Son back to his senses, which is what happens when addicts find themselves homeless, without friends, broke and without hope for a better tomorrow.

The Prodigal Son went home humbled. The father didn’t go after him, or try and save him from his circumstances. The father waited, just like God the Father waits for the addicted to return home. Sometimes, those who are co-dependent with addicts interrupt this valuable process. They can't stand to see the addict suffer, so they'll lend a helping hand to keep their loved one from suffering too much. By doing so, the addict never really has to truly repent.

In this story, the Prodigal Son doesn’t go back into the world. He takes his rightful place in the family. But today, Christians in addictions go in and out of the world, and in and out of God’s house. This isn’t a Biblical picture, and in most cases, the issue is that the prodigal has yet to be humbled and has yet to properly repent.

If you're in distress, we can help. The Solid Rock Road is a Christian recovery program in Oregon with a global outreach. The ministry and the book, “Follow the Solid Rock Road: Pathway to Radical Recovery” lead people back to Father God and to freedom from addictions forever. You can find us at, follow us on Twitter or become our friend on Facebook.


  1. I have been involved with outreach to the homeless and addicted for over thirty years. I have served as a college administrator, a nonprofit executive director, a consultant, pastor and an addiction counselor.

    Recently I created a blog with lots of my writings and lectures on Christian Recovery. Thought you might be interested in knowing about it!

    Twitter: @mliimatta

    1. I visited your site. Thank you for all your hard work to the homeless and addicted. It is truly a calling and requires both compassion and truth.

      Blessings and keep in touch!