The prodigal son discovered what quenches shame. The prodigal had three voices vying for the attention. Which one released the prodigal from shame?

Shame is described in the book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, as a healthy human emotion that can be transformed into shame as a state of being.  As a state of being, shame takes over one’s whole identity.  To have shame as an identity is to believe that one’s being is flawed, and that one is defective as a human being. (Bradshaw: 1988:7.)

Do you have a painful feeling about yourself? If so, you could be suffering from shame! In this page we’ll discover what quenches those shameful feelings.

Let’s look at the well known story in the Bible of the prodigal son, found in the 15th chapter of Luke, to see three voices that are vying for the attention of a person who feels shame-bound.

Three voices vying for our attention

We may know the Bible story: the Father had two sons.  The youngest son, wanting to leave home, said to his father, “Give to me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So the father gave his son his share of his livelihood.

Such an act was unthinkable in the Jewish culture and would bring shame to the father and son in the village. Asking the father for the share of the will was like saying to the father, “I wish you would drop dead. Give to me what you are going to give me when you die.” Think of it! It would be an unspeakable offense and the grossest insult to a father for his son to ask him to give him a portion of his goods before he died.

When the prodigal son became poor and hungry he woke up to himself.  He returned home and said to his father, “Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” According to this Bible verse the prodigal son acknowledged the nature of his sin before God and his father and decided that he would seek his father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son, knowing that he had relinquished his rights of son-ship, was prepared to not even be a bond slave but a hired servant – like a contractor, to offer his services for wages.

The prodigal son comes home!

Shame – carrying a sense of worthlessness can take you to the very lowest point in your life!

The Bible tells us that when the prodigal son was a long way off, his father ran to meet him. So how did the father know that it was his son when he was so far away? While we were living in Ethiopia we saw young boys in the field caring for the animals. They would often go up a tree so that they could see where the animals were. In Biblical times, one of these boys watching the animals would have seen the prodigal son coming and called to the village people, and they in turn would have called to the father.

The Prodigal seeing someone coming far off could have thought:

a. Was it was the elder brother?

The elder brother would have known of the ramifications of his brother leaving home the way he did and so his responsibility would have been to stop him. Now the elder brother could be coming to fulfil his second responsibility – to reconcile his younger brother to the father!

b. Was it someone coming from the village?

Not only was the father humiliated by the boy taking his share of his livelihood but the village people were shamed also. The Jewish custom was that any Jew who lost his money among foreigners would face the Kezazah (literally ‘the cutting off’). The Kezazah would be performed by breaking a clay pot at the feet of the prodigal as a visual symbol that the community was rejecting and banishing him forever.

c. Was it his father?

It wasn’t the elder brother or someone from that village that was running but his father. The Bible says the father ran to meet his son! This was not a culturally acceptable thing to do.  In the Middle East, it was considered humiliating for men over age forty to run. As the father ran, he would have had to lift his robe which would have been humiliating for him.

The father’s costly love and grace overwhelmed the prodigal son! Before the prodigal could finish saying his rehearsed speech, his father:

a. Covers his shame with the best robe

b. Provided sandals for his feet – slaves were bare-footed; sons wore shoes.

b. Placed a ring on his finger – a signet ring would give him the power to transact business – signifying identity, trust, honor and authority – all that the father had would be the son’s.

In this story there are three voices vying for the attention of the person who feels shame-bound.

1. The village people would be accusing the prodigal, shouting, “Shame on you, shame on you.”

The Bible tells us that Satan is known as the accuser of the brethren. He whispers in your ear, “You are not good enough!  You are worthless. You are not good enough to heal people!”

2.  Then there is the eldest brother who responded to his brother’s homecoming by correcting his father

The law has rules and regulations that must be abided by in order to be accepted. The law says, “do good get good”. Shame says, “be good to get acceptance”.

The problem is that shame is a cycle!  You feel shame, with a low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness, so you perform by trying hard to get acceptance. Then when you stuff up, you feel EVEN MORE shame and so the cycle begins again and you try even harder.  It’s a never ending cycle of performing and conforming to feel better about yourself!

3. But the third voice is the Father’s voice

Saying, “Jesus took upon himself your shame; therefore in exchange for your shame, I’ll give you the robe of righteousness. Provide sandals for your feet, for you are my child. I’ll place a ring on your finger so that you can receive all that is mine.”

WHICH VOICE WILL YOU LISTEN TO?  Will you allow God to cover you with the robe of righteousness and will you, as his loved son or daughter, receive ALL that he has for you? Or will you accept today, the extravagant love and grace of your heavenly father?

Click here to see what is the root cause of shame. It will give you an insight into what ignites shame and what fuels shameful feelings?