“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young families in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man, not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
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