Luke 15

“In the teaching of Jesus, both guilt and shame play important roles in understanding how we are affected by sin. Conversely, both forgiveness and honor occupy central roles in understanding the nature of God’s gracious work in our lives.”[1]

The parable of the prodigal son is not only about the son’s receiving forgiveness for his incurred guilt (Luke 15:18, 21), but also about his shame being removed, about him being restored to a place of honour as a son. “The son sought forgiveness for his guilt by confessing his sin and asking to be made like a hired servant. The father could have forgiven his son, cleansed him of any guilt, and then made him like one of his hired servants. However, the father not only forgave him for his sins, but also restored him to the place of honor as a son by kissing his face (Luke 15:20), clothing him with a robe, and putting a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (Luke 15:22). He honored him further by ordering that the fattened calf be killed and a great celebration be held in his son’s honor (Luke 15:23). The text does not indicate that the older son was angry because the father forgave his younger brother. The actual wording of the text makes it clear that he was angry because his younger brother had been shown honor, despite his having brought shame on the family, while he who had never brought shame on the family had never been so honored (Luke 15:28-31)”[2]


[1] Tennent;“Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology;” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007: p87.

[2] Ibid., p88. A more in-depth discussion of the dynamic of ‘shame’ in the passage can be found in Kenneth Bailey; “Poet and Peasant“; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983, p119-133, cf. Stockitt; op.cit., p114 and Appendix 1.2 – . Bailey:”Poet…”:1983:p119-33; Stockitt:p114; Musk:p163; Nouwen:p36.

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