The Prodigal Son and Parental Responsibility

When children grow up in Church, they hear preaching every week, preaching about God, and righteousness.  There is a tendency for us to use the teaching we grew up with as a yardstick whereby we judge all other teachers of God’s Word.

Very often, however, these teachings are coloured by the culture in which the preacher grew up, or went to seminary in.

I don’t think these teachers do this deliberately, but they do do it, and this tendency clouds the words of God and our thinking! If not checked, this error can go on for generations! The erroneous teachings of “Saint” Augustine have infected many churches for some 1,600 years, because many simply accept his teachings without question or without comparing them to the Word of God. The truth is that all the context you need is actually found in the Word of God itself!

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:10-11

Now wait a minute; If a man like Paul preaches to you shouldn’t you just believe what he says? No! You need to check out the teachings of every preacher by the Word of God, even preachers who seem genuine and kindly! Even if a man gives one or two verses which seem to support his position, you need to make sure that he is not taking them out of context!

For many preachers, even the majority, taking Scripture out-of-context is an art form! This is not limited to mainline denominations but is also common among Baptists, Pentecostals, and independent Churches!

In the law the Israelites were told to give their oldest son a double portion of the inheritance.

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: 16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: 17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. Deuteronomy 21

Most western preachers take this to mean that when a man is dying,on his death bed, that he is to leave a double portion of his property to his oldest son. In other words he has no responsibility to this son, and can do what he wants with his money and possessions, and the responsibility only kicks-in when he is on his death bed.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Notice the phrase “when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath” is an open-ended command. It is left to the father when he gives them their inheritance. Don’t read into it permission for the father to be selfish, however, because God wants fathers to be generous in helping their sons, and this means helping set them up in a career!

As you go throughout the books of Moses the term “inheritance” is almost always related to land. They were a nation of farmers, and farming was their business.  It was the father’s responsibility to help his sons by setting them up in business, and training them to run that business.

When Abraham’s servant came back with Rebecca, to be Isaac’s wife, they met him out in the field…

 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. Genesis 24:65

Notice that he didn’t say “this is my master’s son”. This is because Isaac already had authority. The servants already looked to him as their master, because his father had already given him authority over his property. There is a parallel in the story of the prodigal son, where the older son also received his inheritance with the younger brother.

In the next chapter Abraham took another wife, Keturah, and had another whole family with her. Very obviously he still had property even while he had already given the inheritance to Isaac.

Later on we learn that Abraham sent his other sons away to the east, so that they would not have conflict with their older brother Isaac.

But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. Genesis 25:6

Don’t think that Abraham was stingy with these sons. Abraham was a very generous man, and no doubt his generosity extended to all of his children. He did not merely give a few trinkets to these sons, but he gave them enough wealth to set them up in business in the lands where they went.

Notice also that Abraham did not give these gifts on his death-bed, but “while he yet lived”. He set-up his sons for success while he had the means to do so, and he did not give them everything, because he was “yet living”, and still had needs to care for himself and his wife Keturah.

A few years ago Dr. John MacArthur did a sermon on the Prodigal Son in which he made the western error. You can listen to Dr. MacArthur’s sermon at

When the prodigal son asks his father for his inheritance Dr. MacArthur characterizes the son’s request as saying “drop dead, dad”.

R.L. Hymers agrees with MacArthur thussly;

“Jesus said that there was a man who had two sons. The younger son came to his father, and asked for his part of the inheritance now, before the father’s death. The father agreed, and gave the younger son his half of the inheritance. The younger son took everything and left home. He went far away to a distant country and squandered the entire inheritance with loose and sinful living.”

The assumption here is that the son has no right to receive his inheritance before his father’s death.

Now, this is a great way to make sons long for their father’s death! Isn’t it?

When you read the story of the prodigal son, you should note that the father gave both of his sons their inheritance at the same time. He didn’t just give it to the younger…

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. Luke 15:12

So you need to remember, when reading the story, that the older son already had his inheritance. He just didn’t squander it as his brother, and he still lived with his father.  This was not something extraordinary, but a normal occurrence to His audience. The inheritance was intended to help the children get their start in life, not something they received when their father was dying.  Don’t forget that when the father dies, usually the children are already past middle age.

Paul, when speaking of the Corinthian Church compares himself to a father;

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. II Corinthians 12:14 

This is the New Testament policy regarding parents and children. It is the parents responsibility to not only provide food, shelter, clothing, and education for their children when they are small, but they have a responsibility to set-aside something for their children as they approach adulthood, so that they can get a good start in life.

This teaching is lacking in many Churches today, to the point that the secular world often puts Christians to shame! Sometimes pagans put Christians to shame!

My friends, this ought not to be!

To my shame, I grew up in the western system, and my parents did not set anything aside for me, for when I reached the end of high school. My father told me that I should go to college, but he never told me that they would help pay for it. As a young man working on farms, at farm wages, I could not see going to school, because I could not afford to pay for it myself.

“A man has got to stand on his own two feet” is how I was raised, in Baptist Churches. To be sure, this is a common attitude in Canadian society, among all denominations, and even in the secular world.

I don’t blame my parents for this, because this was how they were trained. So were their parents.

What flabergasts me is that this teaching is passed off as Christian, and is taught in Christian Churches, even though it directly contradicts the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments!

I will confess to you, that when my older son went to university that I did not have any money set aside for him. In fact that was the time that I went back to school myself.

I had a printing business at the time, and had always struggled to make ends meet. The year 2,000 saw the highest income my business ever brought in, about $25,000. That was the only year that my self-employed income was above the poverty line. The next year that figure dropped-off to around $18,000, and I knew that I had to make changes.

So, what am I saying, and why would I bring myself into it?

I am saying that you can’t milk a stone. Don’t feel guilty if you work hard and still don’t have extra, but if you have enough for a few luxuries, you really need to set aside something for your children’s education.

If they decide to take a different career path than you would prefer don’t insist that they do your will or else! I don’t recommend secular universities, and I certainly think you should voice your opinion, but if they insist on the wrong thing, so long as it is legal, don’t hinder them.

In Canada we have what is called a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), in which the government also contributes to, based on your contributions.

If you have children, you should put something aside for their education. Anything is better than nothing.

In Canada the law says that parents must provide for their children up through the first degree of a post secondary education. When I went to court with my ex over this issue, the judge told me that children have the right to sue their parents for support while they pursue a post-secondary education!

I was not happy to hear that, at the time, but eventually came to the realization that this requirement is right in line with the teachings of the Holy Bible! Parent’s ought to lay-up for their children!

If the laws of your country do not contradict the teachings of the bible, then we ought to obey them! And this includes providing for children’s post-secondary education.

So why would the oldest son receive a double portion of the inheritance, compared to their younger brothers? This was because parents lived with their oldest son’s family, after they retired. The double portion was so that the oldest son, and his family, was given the resources to care for their parents in their declining years! That’s right, the inheritance was not only for the children, but it was also the parent’s retirement savings plan!

About dknezacek

An average, ordinary guy. Author, husband, father, pilot, aircraft builder, test pilot, machinist, artist, just ordinary stuff that lots of people do. Don't forget bible student. Dan's passion is bible study, especially including the End Times prophecies.
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3 Responses to The Prodigal Son and Parental Responsibility

  1. Brent says:

    Hi Dan,
    I really appreciated the article and the way you put yourself out there to share what should be well understood in the churches.
    I agree, the western sink or swim mentality has been absorbed to some degree by cultural Christians who listen to wolves and hirelings. This is also why so many secular western families don’t prosper as well.
    Many pagan cultures, or newcomers to the west thrive right off the bat because they do sacrifice to set up their children well.
    I personally will never forget or dishonour my fathers example, who, although he wasn’t a believer and was sick with cancer for the last thirty years of his life laid up an inheritance for his three children through selfless sacrifice.
    Regarding education, I spoke with a Christian counselor who works out of a Christian university, and he said many such Christian schools are closing these days. I believe children should consider a skill or a trade to begin with that is marketable before higher learning or seminaries (unless you are clearly called). Too many white collar grads are server blue collar workers their morning coffee! Monetizing those degrees today is difficult as it’s a shrinking pie.
    Even the apostle advocated for earning ones living outside of ministry.
    Above all the biblical model is surely the gold standard for strong families.


    • dknezacek says:

      Hi Brent,

      I agree, and I think one should consider a trade even if you are called to ministry. Seminaries are part of the problem, and more so as time goes on.

      How many seminaries are teaching theistic evolution? This undermines the gospel even before they get out the door!

      How many seminaries are teaching contemplative prayer today? This also undermines the gospel and the bible as well! I know for a fact that this is going on in the majority of seminaries today. Even in ones which would have been recommended 20 years ago.

      I felt the call as a youth, and rebelled, and ran the other way, but in the end I couldn’t escape Him and His call. So I ended up writing a book, and a blog.

      There is certainly a need for pastors today, but the need is for faithful pastors, and there are very few such men in ministry today. The need for faithfulness surpasses the need for education, by the way. God is capable of educating us on His own.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments,


  2. Brent says:

    Hi Dan, Seminaries have been overrun by such teaching. I have found it in the churches I’ve visited after the church I attended was taken over by heretics. If I haven’t mentioned the site before, is one such site that explains some of the heresies (perhaps all) and warns of there promoters. Some of your readers may not recognize them and they cover these concerns. Brent.

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