There was once a landowner who had two sons. One day the younger son said to his father, "I'm tired of being at home, doing as I am told. I want to go away, so please give me my share of the family fortune now."
Without a word, the fahter set about making all the arrangements and handed him his share of the estate.
With money in his bag, the son started off for the bright lights of the town. He spent his monsey freely, enjoying himself and doing whatever he wanted.
One bleak morning he woke to find that his money had all gone and so had his friends. Worse still, there was a severe famine in the land. He was soon in real need. When at last he got a job, it was looking after pigs. He was so hungry that he would have been glad to eat the pig-food himself.
At last he came to his senses. "Here I am, starving," he said to himself, "when back at home, even my father's workers get plenty of food to eat. I shall go back and tell him how sorry I am. He won't take me back as his son, but he may give me work on the farm."
He started off at once, painfully covering the rough ground on bare feet and pulling his ragged cloak around his thin body.
When he was still a long way from home, his father caught sight of him and ran to meet him, full of pity and love. He threw his arms around him, tears of joy running down his cheeks. "I'm sorry father," the boy whispered, near tears himself. "I'm not fit to be your son."
But the father would not let him say another word. He turned to the servants. "Get my son the best robe and bring sandals for his feet. Put my ring on his finger. Then kill the calf we've been fattening up. We're going to have a party to celebrate."
The party was in full swing by the time the older son arrived back from a day in the feilds. "What's going on?" he asked the servants, as the sound of music and dancing came to his ears. "Your brother's come home," they replied. "We've killed the prize calf for the feast."
The older brother was furious. He stormed up and down with a face like thunder. His father came out to find him. "Come and join the party!" he begged. But the older son scowled. "I've slaved for you all these years," he grumbled, "yet you've never given a party for me. Now this son of yours, who wasted all your money, comes home and you kill the prize calf!"
The father was sad to see his son so jealous and unloving. "Everything I posses belongs to you," he reminded him gently. "You are with me all the time. It is right to celebrate, for your brother was lost and now he is found. He was as good as dead, but now I have him home, alive and well."
God's love is the same way. He rejoices when the lost find their way home.