(Luke 15:11-32 – All scripture references from NIV)
Today while reading my devotional*, it caused me to take a new look at the story of the prodigal son. I have always read this story as an example of how our heavenly Father loves us and welcomes us with open arms, even when we return to Him after wrongdoings; and, consequently it shows how blessed our lives can be because of His love.
In our Christian walk, some of us stay on the straight and narrow, as the older brother in this story did – or at least how he felt he did. I express it like that because the older brother seemed to have a pretty high opinion of himself. Look at his words in verse 29 while speaking with 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.’”
Oh boo-hoo….woe is me! Really?? “..all these years” I’ve been “slaving” for you. Those are pretty extreme words that to me come across as a lot of self-pity. His father seems to have been a man of fairly substantial means, enough so that he had servants to do as he wished. Are we seriously to believe that his father used him as a “slave”? Okay, yes, it does say that he “was in the field”, but it does not say what he was doing there. Maybe he had a job to do in helping to manage things around their place, but I sincerely doubt that he was “slaving.” After all, his father had already given him his share of the estate (see verse 12 where we are told that the father “’…divided his property between them.’” So when his younger brother asked and received his share of the estate, the older brother also received his share.) If he was indeed “slaving”, he was now doing it for his own benefit, because he owned it. (See verse 31b where his father tells him “’everything I have is yours.’”) And seriously, he “never” disobeyed? And why should his father have had to give him anything in order to celebrate with friends? He owned it and could have done it himself! So why was his hand still out wanting to be treated like an inept child?
Now let us turn our attention to the younger son. He was obviously pretty self-absorbed and problematic. Once he got his half of his father’s estate, he does not wait long to just take off and we are told in verse 13b that he “squandered his wealth in wild living.” He apparently was immature and irresponsible and unconcerned about the impact of his behavior on his family – especially his generous father. He then paid dearly for the lifestyle he had chosen by having to become a slave and his job was to feed the pigs. (I would think that this had to be one of the lowest of possible jobs to be had.) He obviously was not compensated much for this work either, because the story talks about how he was so hungry he desired to eat the pig’s food. He soon realized that he was substantially worse off now than even his father’s servants. He recognized how badly he had behaved and was so humbled that he decided to return home with the mindset that he would become a servant to his father.
But, when he returned home his father greeted him with open arms. The young man confessed and was immediately forgiven. His father did not put him under any condemnation by pointing out all he had done wrong and how hurt he was. There was no shaming to make him feel guilty. He just loved him, welcomed him home and wanted to celebrate!
When you contrast how the younger son was humble and confessed his sins to that of the behavior of the older son that “became angry and refused to go in” (verse 28) to celebrate the return of his brother – which one would you say is the problem child?
We all are guilty of falling short (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23); but, we should all be aware that we can return to our Father, confess and be totally restored with no condemnation – (“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – Romans 8:1.) I believe when we go to the Father, no matter how many times we have to do it, that there is celebration as in verse 32 where it says “’..we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
We need to think about these things – do we want to be like the selfish, stubborn, self-pitying, self-absorbed older brother? Or, do we want to be like the self-aware, humbled, contrite younger brother?
The only perfect person to ever walk this earth was Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will all make mistakes – in other words, we will all be problem children to our Father. So, which problem child are you? Think about it – which problem child would you rather be in the long run?
* Devotional referred to was on page 24 in “Worship The King” devotional book, written by Chris Tiegreen
Written by Karran Martin – January 24, 2019