Are you familiar with the parable of the prodigal son? It’s a story I’ve read many, many times, but always somewhat struggled with. A few weeks ago, my pastor taught on the passage again and since then, I’ve found myself going back to it time and time again.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15: 11-32
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011
The son who was angry when his brother was welcomed home with open arms (despite the choices he’d made and the way he had hurt his father in the process) wanted the pleasure of sonship without the responsibility of brotherhood.
Isn’t that good? It really resonated with me, because I find myself with that same attitude more often than I’d like to admit. My pastor has a gift of teaching familiar texts in a whole new way, always leaving me searching my own heart and hungry to study His Word more and more.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing the best parts of yourself to the worst parts of others. It’s a slippery slope that distracts us from focusing on Jesus, allows us to ignore the areas that we need to work on in our own hearts, and makes us forget that the only person we should be comparing ourselves to is the person we were yesterday.
When I think of the pleasure of sonship, I think of His promise of eternal life because I’ve asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I think of the comfort I have, knowing that my God is for me, that He has a plan for my life, and that He loved me enough to send His only Son to die on the cross for me. I think of my Abba Father, who will never leave me or forsake me, who is the greatest example of unfailing love.
But it can’t stop there. In John 13:34, Jesus says, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” With love comes understanding. With love comes forgiveness. With love comes grace… the same kind of grace I’m so thankful for each and every day, because Lord knows, I need it. The responsibility of brotherhood is love. Jesus didn’t suggest it, he commanded it.
Studying the way the father in this parable celebrated the return of his lost son is so good for my unforgiving heart. It’s something I have to work on every day, because we can’t truly enjoy the pleasure and blessing of sonship without striving to embrace the responsibility of brotherhood.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.”
Lets encourage one another today, friends!