Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. We know that a man had two sons, the younger of which asked his father for his inheritance, took everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered it all in foolish living. We know that a severe famine struck that country after he had spent everything, so he found himself feeding pigs for a living, and actually envying the pigs he fed! We know that he finally came to his senses and decided that it would be better for him to go back to his father and work as a hired hand than to stay where he was and starve to death. We know that he went to his father and repented, and his father gave him a royal welcome when he returned, killing the fattened calf to celebrate because his son who had been lost was found. But how well do we know the rest of the story?
Remember the older son? He was returning from working in the field when he heard music and dancing, and he became angry when he found out that the reason for the celebration was his brother’s return. His father pleaded with him to come join in the festivities, but he refused because his father had never thrown a party for him and his friends, although by his own estimation he was more deserving for having remained at home obediently serving his father while the other son wasted his father’s wealth.
I’m sure many of us can identify with the younger son. We understand his desire to have control over his own life, to taste freedom, independence, worldly pleasures. We’ve been on the road that leads to nowhere and have found ourselves in dire straits before realizing that we have chosen the wrong path. And having come to that realization, we have confessed our sins and repented and sought the Father’s forgiveness.
I wonder, though, how many of us can identify with the older son. It’s not as easy to admit to being like the Pharisees, who took issue with our Lord welcoming sinners and eating with them, but if we’ve ever decided not to go to church because of the people who are there, then we really can’t deny it, can we? If we’ve ever been more offended by the sinfulness of others than by our own, then we have to recognize the likeness. If we’ve ever chosen not to fellowship with a Christian brother or sister for any reason other than church discipline, then we ought to examine our hearts.
To be continued. . .