The first post in this series looked at the main character in the story of the prodigal son; the younger son who had gone off with his inheritance and wasted it, and then came back. This post looks at the older son.
When the prodigal son returned home, there was one person who was conspicuously absent. The elder son was out in the fields, working as he had for years. In contrast to his younger brother, the older son had stayed home, working hard and obeying his father.
When he came in from another hard day's work, the elder brother saw all the lights on in the house, heard the music and laughter, and noticed the activity of the servants. In answer to his questions, a servant replied that the younger son had returned and the father was welcoming him home with a huge party. The older son didn't think this was such a good idea. In fact, he was pretty ticked off and refused to go into the house and join the festivities.
When the father came out to ask his oldest son to join them, he refused. He complained that during all the years he had spent doing everything the father had wanted, being the dutiful son, he had never even received one single goat to have a cookout with his friends. "On top of that, this son of yours has wasted his inheritance on wild parties and whores, and you've killed the fattened calf for him?"
How many of us have, at one or more times in our lives, been upset because grace has been shown to an individual who is a "worse sinner" than we are? (I see that hand. It's mine) We just can't believe that they got away with it! Our attitude is often the same as that of the Americans who rejoiced when Osama Bin-Laden was killed. That so-and-so got what he deserved. We want justice (usually meaning what the other person deserves) when it comes to others, yet many times we would prefer that mercy be shown to us. Sometimes, while the angels in heaven are rejoicing over one sinner who has repented, we are taking a wait and see attitude. After all, we don't want to be played for a fool.
Sometimes we are like the elder brother when we think that because we have been good little boys and girls, God owes us. We wonder why God doesn't answer our requests, because after all, we've been faithful in church, we've served others, we've had faith and claimed that answer, whatever. Then, when God doesn't "come through" for us, we start looking around for answers. Maybe I didn't have enough faith. Maybe I didn't pray hard enough. Maybe I need to search my heart and see if there's a sin I forgot to confess. Or, we begin to doubt the goodness of God toward us. "If God really loves me, why didn't he give me what I want."
Like the prodigal, the elder brother forgot who we was. Even though he had never left the property, he too had left home. He had forgotten the character of his father. The father was obviously a kind, loving, and generous man. He was full of grace and mercy, and wanted the best for his sons. He was quick to forgive, and to let past offenses stay in the past. Interestingly, that sounds a whole lot like our Father. He is slow to anger, and quick to forgive. He doesn't dredge up our past and hold it against us. He loves his children with an everlasting love, and his heart is good to us.
We can not earn the grace of our Father. It is his to give freely, and his alone. We are not to look on others and complain when they don't "get what they deserve." Most of the time we don't know how God is working in another individuals life. To paraphrase Aslan, God is not telling us their story, he is only telling us ours. Judging whether or not a person should receive grace is way above our pay grade. We are called to rejoice when others rejoice. Kind of like the angels.
We have all been the elder brother in some way or another. Our Abba is calling us to join the party.
The Prodigal Son: The Younger Son
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