Protect Your Children’s Right to Choose
What would you do if one of your kids walked up to you and asked for his or her inheritance? The father of the prodigal son was faced with this decision. He probably responded differently than many of us would. He protected his son’s right to choose—and it had a happy ending as a result. Take a look:
A certain man had two sons, the younger of them said to his father, father give me the portion of goods that falleth tome. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, took his journey into a far country, there wasted his substance with riotous living. When he had spent all, their arose a mighty famine in that land and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would ? have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father I’ve sinned against heaven and before thee and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants and he arose and came to his father but when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him. Had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I’ve sinned against heaven and in thy sight and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe, put it on him, put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, bring hither the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and be merry. For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:11–24)
Based on what we see about this family, we can assume three things:
- These sons grew up in a godly home and knew the Word. The older son said, “I’ve obeyed you all of these years”; that means teaching had been done in that household, and the sons knew the difference between right and wrong.
- The prodigal son was a young adult. He wasn’t a ten-year-old the father gave his inheritance to early. The son was old enough for it to be appropriate that he take on this responsibility.
- These tendencies didn’t come overnight. This was a rebellious young man who was chomping at the bit to get out from under house rules and be able to live on his own.
With these things in mind, put yourself in this situation. Picture that your son came to you asking for his inheritance so he could run off—plus he was going through a period of rebellion on top of it. Would you:
- Rely on intimidation to gain the response you wanted: “As long as this is your lifestyle, I’m cutting you out of my inheritance!”
- Use guilt or condemnation: “How could you do this to me? After all I’ve done for you and your brother, this is how you treat me?”
- Attempt to manipulate him by withholding blessing until he conforms to your wishes: “All right, I’ll give you your inheritance as long as you can prove to me that you’re not spending it on booze or loose women.”
The father in Jesus’ story did none of those things. Instead, he gave him what he wanted, even though he had an idea what was going to happen. The father most likely saw his boy off with tears in his eyes. Time passed. When famine hit the land, do you think the father was unaware that things were tough where his son had gone? Absolutely not. I think he knew—but he didn’t send him a little bump here and there to help him through tough times.
Now, this isn’t to say that the father didn’t love him. We know he did love his son based on his response when his son finally did come home. Even though he loved him, he resisted the temptation to rescue him, as many parents do. He didn’t bail him out, even when he was in a hog pen eating as pigs do! He let him suffer the consequence of his wrong decisions, even when famine showed up.
We see the result of this course of action in verse 17: “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare and I perish with hunger.” He realized his dad was doing it right and what he was teaching him was true; he wanted to go back home. He received that revelation in a way he would have never gotten if he had somebody interfere with the law of sowing and reaping in his life.
The last thing we can learn from this story is that the father didn’t give to his son grudgingly. He didn’t say, “I told you so. I knew I shouldn’t have given you that money, because I knew exactly what you were going to do with it.” He gave him the money with no strings attached. When his son came home, he embraced him, loved him, put a robe around him and put a ring on his finger.
This story had a happy ending because that father was smart enough to protect his son’s right to choose even when the choices were about as wrong as they could possibly be.
Now, I’m not telling you to give your children their inheritance when they want it and particularly if they are in a rebellious streak. You also shouldn’t simply give your children everything they want. Sometimes, that means you take a step back and let them experience the consequences of their decisions. Pray for them and trust God’s hand at work in their lives. Your story can have a happy ending too.