“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!’ (Luke 15:28-30)
The first time I read the parable of the prodigal son, I was probably in my tweens or teens. And, at the time, I was really on the older brother’s side. As one of five kids myself, it would have really burned me to have one of my siblings go off and have a wild time, return when the fun and money ran out, and then have my parents welcome him/her home with a huge party. How unfair!
The older brother was so upset to see the prodigal son get this reception, when he himself had never received anything like it during all of his years of hard work. His jealousy made it impossible for him to enjoy the party.
How often do we look upon the newly repentant, the sinners who have turned away and then returned to the fold, with unkind words and jealousy in our hearts?
We think about our years of service, our hard work, and our good choices. And, suddenly, our eternal salvation takes a back seat to our self-righteousness. We wonder why this guy, who, by the way, got to do lots of fun stuff that we resisted, gets to cut in line. Where was he while we were toiling in the fields (or the modern equivalent)? Why should his return be celebrated when we’ve been here all along?
“‘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.’” This is exactly what God is saying to us.
The life we’ve lived and the good choices we’ve made in no way decreases God’s love for us. But to have someone return from the dead, and a life lived in sin is surely the road to an eternal death, is something to celebrate.
So the next time you’re tempted toward envy or anger, remember that God’s grace is a gift to all of us, regardless of when we seek it out. And we should celebrate and lift up any of our brothers and sisters in Christ who want to return to the fold.
Have a blessed Monday!