In my Nigerian boarding school, students loved to indulge in a practical joke. An older student would send an unsuspecting younger one on an errand to get the “rainbow bucket” from another older student. The latter would then ask the young student to get it from another older student. On and on it went until someone took pity on the unsuspecting student and revealed that the bucket didn’t actually exist!

In a far more significant way, the prodigal (or wasteful) son in Jesus’ parable set out on his own fool’s errand searching for fulfillment though embracing a destructive lifestyle (Luke 15:12-14). He disgraced his family by asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive. Worse still, he squandered that money.

Later, at his wits’ end, the young man took a job feeding pigs—one with such meager compensation that he found himself envying the pig feed. Eventually the scales fell from his eyes and he went home in hopes of attaining servant status in his father’s household (Luke 15:16-19).

His father’s generous welcome of him not as a servant but as a beloved son must have made his earlier quest seem foolish indeed. Everything he’d been searching for—acceptance, importance, and independence—had been his all along (Luke 15:22-24).

All too often, we may find ourselves in the prodigal son’s shoes. Only after our best-laid plans and efforts have proven futile do our thoughts turn to our heavenly Father. Seeking self-worth and satisfaction outside of God is the supreme fool’s errand. As we embrace our identity in Jesus, however, we’ll experience true fulfillment that can only come from God—the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 1:5-25