I was profoundly affected by the sermon about the Parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) this past weekend. Our Pastor, Joey Edwards, revealed something that I never knew about. I’ve always related more to the older brother in this story as I grew up a “good” kid, who focused on school and didn’t really get into trouble. I didn’t grow up in a Christ centered family, the closest I knew about Christ was from movies and celebrating Christmas – which I wholly associated with Santa Clause. This is not to say my family didn’t have any morals or values, but our values were mostly based on Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. It was not until I was well into college I was revealed to the way, and the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ.
So when I was an early believer I had a hard time with the parable of the prodigal son
(as with many early believers… I think). In this parable (and this is my rough interpretation, I encourage you to read the story in the bible directly – I’ll post it at the end for reflection), two brothers ask for their Father’s inheritance. The younger son foolishly sells and uses up his inheritance until he has nothing. The older son stayed with his father, obeying his father and helping him as well as working the fields. The younger son realizes the folly of his ways and returns to the father to beg for forgiveness. The father upon seeing the son’s arrival prepares a great feast (party) for him, even killing a fatten calf for him (definitely a huge luxury at the time). The older son returning from the fields saw this and definitely became jealous or envious and complained to his Father. In which his Father replied “Son, you are always with me, and all that mine is yours”.
Before the sermon this past Sunday, I definitely sympathized with the older brother (being an older brother myself) and because it just didn’t seem very “fair” in my eyes. I mean here we have one son that was the “screw up” and pretty much messed up his life and became so desperate he had no choice, but to come back home. And then when he got home he gets thrown a feast! Not punished or rebuked, but an all out party for returning. What does the older son get? It seemed to me like the older son was just getting a proverbial pat on the back.
Boy was I wrong!
Pastor Joey revealed this Sunday two things that really stood out to me. When the inheritance was divided among the brothers, the Older son got twice as much inheritance as the younger son. It was custom at the time to have the eldest son receive “two shares” and the other sons (if any) receive only one share of inheritance. I never really knew that or thought about that. It completely changes the dynamic of the story and this notion of “fairness”. Also another thing that stood out was a careful look at the words the older son said to his father. I’ll emphasize the words that stood out – “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” Luke 15:29-30 (ESV).
The older brother is only focused on one thing… himself. Apparently he’s perfect as he has never disobeyed a command and served his father many years… basically he has this huge sense of entitlement. Let’s take a step back, the older brother wouldn’t even have an inheritance if not for the father and his provision. Not only did he not appreciate the inheritance he received, but he is focused on himself and himself only.Whereas the younger brother sought forgiveness and repentance after realizing the error of his ways.
How many times have we felt a sense of entitlement?
Especially when we are “good” Christians who attend church every Sunday. Does this make us better than someone who may have sinned all of their life and have come to God seeking the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and mind? The clear answer is absolutely not. We shouldn’t put ourselves above others as the older son did in this parable. We are no better than any who have committed sin, as we ourselves have committed sin. The only person who I know who is above everyone and can judge them is Jesus himself. There’s a passage in James that states “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” James 2:10 (ESV). Are we to say that we haven’t failed to keep God’s law at one point in our lives? We are definitely lying to ourselves if we do say that!
This parable has me re-evaluating my world view. I shouldn’t be quick to judge others or envy those whom I think don’t “deserve” God’s provision and increase. Who am I to judge what is given and who receives it or to question God’s actions? It’s as if God was rebuking me this weekend as he was rebuking Job in Job 38 and 39. God basically laid the smack down on Job and put him in his place. This was definitely a humbling experience and I hope that God will reveal these verses to you when you being to feel a sense of entitlement or self-righteousness. All good things come from the Lord, be thankful of what you have and praise and thank Him everyday.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more thanfelt enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)
Thanks for reading!