Desires of the Prodigal

What if the son had died while he was still rebelling?

May 1-7

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The parables that Christ teaches this week have many similar themes that ring throughout them, but one sticks out to me above the rest (at least for this particular post). It is the theme of laying aside treasure in heaven.

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

One of the things that I love most about studying the teachings of Jesus Christ is that I find Him extremely practical. Though all of His teachings have spirituality as part of their nature, I also firmly believe that they make sense when we examine them from a logical standpoint.

So why does it make sense to worry more about treasures in heaven than on earth? There is, of course, the obvious answer that eternity lasts a lot longer than eternal life. However, I’d like to explore that just a little bit deeper. 

According to our desires

I want you to imagine for a second that you are standing before the Lord on Judgment Day. He measures your heart exactly as it is. All of the actions you performed, all of the thoughts you nurtured, all of the ways you handled your flaws and mistakes have come together to create the measure of your heart. And the Lord knows your heart and where it is.

Let’s imagine for a second that the Lord gives us exactly what our desires are. He asks what we want our eternity to look like, and then He gives it to us. And I mean exactly. If you dreamed of having a home overrun with puppies, that’s what He gives you. If you desire wealth, He showers you with all the cash you had fought for in your life. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch here. The Lord also gives it to you at the cost you were willing to pay for it. Let me give an example from the Lord so you can better understand what I’m trying to say. 

In Luke 15, we learn about the prodigal son. I know that this is not the traditional lesson that comes along with this parable, but I feel like it can still teach this principle. 

A man had two sons. The younger son asks for his living from his father and leaves his family. He spends his days in riotous living for a while. What if that was the end of the story? It’s obviously not, and there’s so much more to explore in the story. However, let’s pretend for a second that the younger son dies in this condition. His heart wants money and riotous living.

This younger son stands before the Lord, trembling and fearing because he hadn’t given much thought to an afterlife. He’s worried about where the Lord is going to send him. However, much to his surprise, the Lord gives him exactly what he wants. The Lord allows the younger son to depart and go live his eternity how he wants to. And this younger son is pumped about it. 

He leaves the Lord and goes to find people who are similar to him. He is surprised to find a purse full of money, and he’s even more surprised to find out he doesn’t even need it. In the eternities, there is enough and to spare; money has become obsolete. He finds that there is always some party to go to, and he continues on living exactly as he did before he died. For a while, this is perfect. Who knew that the afterworld would simply be an iteration of what his heart wanted?

Unfortunately, as time moves on, life gets unbearably boring. A purse full of money is rather silly when there’s nothing to buy, and so that purse was discarded rather quickly. The young son was thrilled that he no longer had to worry about his funds running out. But as time drags on for an eternity and longer, the parties are still the same as they were yesterday. It is the same thing over and over and over and over. Nothing ever changes. Nobody ever changes. It is an endless cycle of waking up with a hangover and waiting until you go out again at night. This young son has seen it all, and he becomes so sick of it that he wishes his eternity could just end already. There is a reason most people grow out of their party phase.

What his heart had craved so badly in mortality now feels achingly empty, and the thought of an eternity of it makes him want to throw up. He can’t help but spend his days wondering what his father and brother are doing. Unfortunately, he’s not sure whether he will get the opportunity to know. He was given his desire (riotous living and money) at the cost he was willing to pay (family).

Our own desires

And this applies to all sorts of desires. Take time to do an inventory of yourself. It may be easy to say that you want family over everything else, but what does your day look like? I know that there are mortal circumstances that require us to work a lot, but I think we can still determine where our hearts are by looking at what we do with our free time and what we think about. What do you desire and why do you desire it? Then place those desires in the context of eternity.

The context is this: Money is useless; no one needs or uses it. Your status because of your money? There is no such thing in an existence of equals. There is nothing hidden that will not be shouted from the rooftops. There will be no more lying, manipulating, and getting ahead. It’s simply impossible in a world where everyone has what they want and everybody has resurrected bodies. Spending all of your time in a numb state scrolling social media or shopping or watching TV will become so unbearably boring that it’s painful. Even working out can jump out of its proper place in our priorities.

There is a reason the Lord wants our hearts turned towards others, and that’s because you find life when you give your’s up. There is a reason that eternal posterity is a part of the Celestial Kingdom, and there’s a reason that the Lord wants our hearts set on Him and our families. 

Case in point: I have walked a majority of my life. I like going on walks, but there is nothing remotely exciting about putting one foot in front of the other anymore. I don’t even think about it. I imagine that any activity you do long enough (as in…forever) will become robotic in nature. 

However, the thrill I got when my babies took their first steps probably brought a joy that still fills me up inside. Watching someone you love do something for the first time makes old things feel exciting again. Watching someone grow and work through challenges is like watching a new movie for the first time. It makes eternity worth living in. 

Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with making money, working out, shopping, and watching TV. There is nothing wrong with scrolling social media. Mortal life requires money, and you can do a lot of good if you have a lot of money. Working out is an important way of taking care of our bodies so that we can do good. Down time is also essential. Nothing is innately wrong with any of these activities, and they should be prioritized to a degree. I’m not trying to teach that you should never go to the gym or read a book because you’re sacrificing time with your kids. Heaven knows I’m a cranky mom if I don’t work out or take care of myself.

I’m merely trying to teach a perspective about what should ultimately fill our hearts. If we can change our hearts to be what the Lord has asked, we will be capable of finding joy even in a world that has no end. 

Someday, when your body is resurrected and mortal life is over, there will be no great drama to unfold anymore. You’ll have your memories, but rewatching the same movie forever is agonizing. Instead, when we are given the right to create, there will be newness. There will be something worth watching. There will be highs and lows that are so inexplicably tied together.

Another application

This principle also applies to the older brother of the prodigal son. What was in the heart of this older brother? We can’t know for sure, but we can take some guesses. Perhaps he relished the thought of being the favored brother who did no wrong, or perhaps he was simply afraid that his father favored his other brother because he hadn’t really felt celebrated. 

There are many of us who would probably relate to the older brother. We try for so long, and it doesn’t get noticed at all. Or at least it doesn’t feel like it was noticed. Our hearts are worried that we don’t matter as much.

A healthy amount of validation is important; there is a reason our Heavenly Father tells us how much He loves us. But comparison will never give us that healthy validation we crave.

If that father had lost both of his sons to riotous living, and only the younger son came back, the father would have thrown a celebration for the younger son. However, his heart would have continued to ache for the older son. 

Your Heavenly Father sees and loves you, and He’s perfect. You will feel perfectly seen (for better or worse) at Judgment Day. Heavenly Father loves you in a way that you don’t have to worry about whether you will be celebrated.

Instead, you can choose to let go and join the happy party. You can choose to let your heart love your brother and celebrate his return. You can set your heart on others because Heavenly Father will take good care of your’s.

There is so much joy to be had in forever, and we can experience inconceivable amounts of joy when we celebrate the joys of others right alongside our own. We can feel more triumph and more glory when we love others enough to feel theirs. 

Set your heart on being healthy enough to do good in the world. Set your heart on relieving suffering which often requires money. Set your heart on something that is truly valuable throughout the eternities, something that won’t fade over the course of living forever. Set your heart on treasure that has innate worth in the context of eternity.

I’m grateful for a Savior who wants me to experience the same happiness He has found. I’m grateful for a Savior who paid for me to have an eternity that is worth living.

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