A man had two sons. The youngest son approached his father one day and said, “Father, give me my portion of inheritance now.”
So the father divided up his possessions and gave half to the youngest son. A few days later, the youngest son gathered up all of his new wealth and traveled into a distant land. He quickly spent all of his inheritance on scandalous living. After he had spent everything, a famine came and there was no food in the land.
He became very hungry, wandering the country until he found someone who hired him to feed the pigs. As the youngest son fed slop to the pigs, he felt so hungry that the scraps looked delicious to him.
Then the youngest son realized, “All of my father’s servants have more than enough food to eat, while I am dying of hunger. I will go to my father’s house and tell him that I have sinned. I am not worthy to be called his son, and I will ask him to hire me with his servants.”
The youngest son made his long journey back to his father’s home.
The father looked to the path and saw the figure of his youngest son while he was still a good distance away. The father excitedly ran to meet his son on the path, wrapping him in a hug and kissing him.
The youngest son, reduced to rags and a starving belly, humbly said to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son.”
But the father hushed his son, and called to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and dress my youngest son in it. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Kill the fatted calf and let us have a feast and celebrate! My son was thought dead but is alive! He was lost and now he is found.”
It was done as the father said, and all were gathered together to have a great party to celebrate the safe return of the youngest son.
The oldest son returned from a long day working in his father’s field. He heard the music and saw the party, not knowing his little brother had returned. He asked a servant what was going on.
“Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf to celebrate his safe return!” said the servant happily.
The older brother was angry and would not join the party. Soon his father found him and asked him what was wrong.
“I have worked for you for years, and have never broken any rule or disobeyed in anything. You have never given me so much as a goat to celebrate with my friends,” the older son said bitterly. “But as soon as my brother comes, who has wasted his living with harlots, you give him the fatted calf.”
The father looked at his oldest and faithful son with compassion.
“Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours,” said the father, putting an arm around the oldest son. “We have reason to celebrate. Your brother was thought dead, but is alive! He was lost and is found. Nothing has been taken from you. Come and celebrate with us.”