I Got Shoes

Lou Lotz

Read: Luke 15:11-32

Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. (v. 22)

Rev. Wilbur Washington was the first African-American president of the General Synod of the Reformed Church, and a wise and wonderful man. It was Wilbur who pointed out to me something about today’s parable that I had never noticed—on returning home the prodigal son received sandals.

Shoes, Wilbur explained, were tokens of sonship. Only slaves went barefoot. Hence the old spiritual: “I got shoes, you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes. When I get to heaven gonna put on my shoes, gonna walk all over God’s heaven, heaven, heaven.”

What a grand reception—shoes, a ring, a robe, the fatted calf, the feast. Item after item speaks of welcome and acceptance. And all this for a boy who had treated his father shamefully, and who richly deserved every ounce of his current misery. No wonder the scribes and Pharisees grumbled. They resented the father’s graciousness. And no wonder the tax collectors and sinners “were all drawing near to hear him” (15:1), because they saw in the story a glimmer of hope.

If you ever get a chance to view Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, take a good, long look at the old, wizened father as he pulls his son to himself. Rembrandt depicted the father as being blind. His eyes are clouded shut. He sees his wayward son, not with his eyes, but with his heart. And so God sees us. —Lou Lotz

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your unfathomable grace.