The Prodigal Son and His Brother

Mar 04, 2019

There are two sons in the Parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son in Luke 15, but we often just focus on the errant one. He is the one who asked for his inheritance and then went off and lived a fun life and spent/lost all his inheritance. He was brought to his knees by his own choices and was now caring for someone else’s animals far from home and finally thought that he could be doing the same thing at his father’s house, if he went home. He’s a good example of a repentant person, one who turns back to God.


The second son, after his brother has returned to the open arms of his father, is jealous of him. He complains to his father that he has done all that he should have, but that God never killed a fatted calf for him, even though he was the good child. He was the good child, but he saw his father as just asking for obedience. So he is the petulant child asking “what did you ever do for me?”


The second son has lived in his father’s house, but never felt like he belonged. He never felt his father’s love and favor. He couldn’t see beyond his own assumptions about his life to see that his father was filled with love for him. That he lived in the riches of his father’s house and never saw that he could enjoy them, too. He was blind to all that his father offered him. He was still trying to earn what was already his, just by being a son to his father.


He is a letter-of-the-law person doing exactly like he has been told, but lives unloved in his own home, in his own family. He is deaf and blind to all that he inherited, to all that surrounds him every day. He has no sense that he can ask his father to fill his own needs.


Is Jesus saying in this parable that we are one or the other: the errant son/daughter enjoying the good life until it is lost to him/her or the good son/daughter who doesn’t think he deserves anything that belongs to his father? Do I, do you, identify as “the good” child? Or have we rebelled and now come back to be our father’s servant, definitely not feeling like we deserve what He freely gives.


The errant son at least woke up to the idea that he could be a servant in his father’s house, rejoin his own family if only as a servant, but he had no idea that his father would be awaiting his return, that his return would be celebrated. The “good” son has found no reason to see that he is loved, to really become a part of the family, not just the onlooker, until he experiences his homecoming.


Isn’t this what God is offering us when we “repent” or turn back to Him? Doesn’t he celebrate our return? Maybe the three days I spent walking on air in total joy after I gave my life to Christ were God’s way of celebrating my return. Isn’t there immediately a place at the table for us? Isn’t the “still, small voice” immediately there to guide us? How could we miss all the promises and signs in the Bible that God does care about every single hair on our heads,  [1] that he awaits our return as Jesus preached: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” [2] Isn’t Jesus inviting us into the kingdom, into our own true home? Why do we stay so awash in guilt and shame that we can’t see the promises as true? Aren’t we just like the second son?


It is time to trust God, to believe the record He has left us in the Bible about our relationship to him that is never severed, even if we are the errant child or the “good” one. It’s time to step into the kingdom and assume all the good that will befall us when we take our place as children of God. It is time to lay all our guilt and shame on God’s altar and to leave it there for Him to heal. It is time that we accept our inheritance as we become true and loved children of the Most High God. it is time to feel the love and forgiveness that God so freely offers us deep in our bones and in every cell in our bodies. What a difference that would make in all our lives!


Questions to ponder over the week: Am I more like the prodigal son or the good son? Do I really feel God’s love for me in every cell of my body? Or do I forever feel unworthy of His love? Can I see the truth in the Bible that God loves me and decide that if God loves me, surely I can love myself, flawed human being that I am? Can I apply the lens of love to my own life? Can I forgive myself for all my sins and flaws? Can I step freely into God’s arms?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can live in God’s love and our own love, and then give that love totally out to the world. May we not judge, only understand. May we not preach, but only understand another’s life. May we only see struggles like our own in the others’ lives.


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I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, but if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.


[1] Luke 12:7

[2] Matthew 4:17

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