And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country…
When the prodigal son had attained his wish and was free to do as he liked without the restraints of home, how did he fare? He found, as in our distance from God we shall find, that life there meant three evil things -
I. A TWOFOLD WASTE. He "wasted his substance in riotous living." He misspent his powers, devoting to frivolous and unremunerative enjoyment those bodily and mental faculties that might have been put to profitable use, and he scattered the material resources with which he started. Sin is spiritual waste.
1. It is the waste of consumption. The "substance of the soul includes:
(1) Spiritual understanding; a noble capacity to perceive Divine truths and heavenly realities - the thoughts, the wishes, the purposes of God. Under the dominion of sin this capacity becomes enfeebled; in disuse it rusts and is eaten away: From him that hath not [uses not what he has] is taken away that [unused capacity] which he has."
(2) Spiritual sensibility; the capacity of feeling the force of things Divine, of being sensibly and practically affected by them, of being moved and stirred by them to appropriate decision and action. No man can live on in conscious sin without continually losing this sacred and precious sensibility. Neglected and unapplied, it withers away, it wastes.
2. It is the waste of perversion. Man was made for the very highest ends - made for God; to study, to know, to love, to serve, to rejoice in God himself. And when he spends his powers on himself and on his own animal enjoyment, he is "wasting his substance," turning from their true Object to one immeasurably lower the faculties and the opportunities with which he came into the world.
II. PITIABLE WANT. "He began to be in want." Indulgence is expensive, and unfits for work; sinful companions are happy to share the treat, but they are slow to refill the purse. Sin leads down to destitution; it takes away a taste for all pure enjoyment, and provides nothing lasting in its stead. The man who yields himself to the power of sin loses all joy in God, all relish for spiritual enjoyments, all gratification in sacred service, all capacity for appreciating the fellowship of the good and great, all sense of the sacredness and spiritual worth of life. What has he left? He is beggared, ruined. "No man gives unto him;" no man can give unto him. You cannot give to a man what he is not capable of receiving; and until he is radically changed he cannot receive anything truly precious at your hands.
III. GRIEVOUS DEGRADATION. He was "sent into the fields to feed swine." This was bad enough; yet was there one thing worse - " he was fain to fill his belly with the husks the swine did eat." He went down to the lowest grade imaginable. The degradation of the soul is the very saddest thing under the sun. When we see a man who was made to find his heritage in God's likeness and service satisfying himself with that which is bestial, degrading himself to the drunkard's song, to the impure jest, to the part of astute roguery, and finding a horrible enjoyment in these shameful things, then we see a human heart satiating itself with "husks that the swine do eat," and then we witness the most lamentable of all degradations. Such is life in the "far country." Distance from God means waste, want, degradation. Its full and final outworking may take time, or it may hasten with terrible rapidity. But it comes sooner or later.
1. There is a way of return even from that "strange land," that evil estate (see succeeding homilies).
2. How wise to place ourselves out of danger of these dire evils by connecting ourselves at once with Jesus Christ! - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.