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.’
This is the tail end of the Prodigal Son story. The stray son has come home repentant, and the father has thrown a party. Enter the older brother, wondering what the commotion is about. When he finds out, he’s angry. It’s not fair.
And it isn’t.
It’s merciful, extravagant… love. It’s a perfect picture of the God who shatters the boundaries we like to put up, who doesn’t write people off the way we do. The God of second chances.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate grace enough to delight in the younger son’s reconciliation with his father. But I still felt the responsible son hadn’t been treated well. Not even one measly goat for a pot-luck with his buddies!
It hit me the other day – did he ever ask?
Listen to him: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” Is that what the father truly wanted?
Hard work, sure, but how about partnership? Working for the good of the family farm (and fortune). It would be his someday, as firstborn, but he wasn’t seeing his inheritance. Only his obligation.
Maybe I ought to give the black sheep son more credit. Sure, he made stupid choices, but at least he understood he had an inheritance.
I hear great sadness in the father’s response to his elder son’s anger. Maybe it’s not only sadness that his firstborn can’t see the joy of restoration. Maybe it’s also for a young man who’s missed the joy of sonship and settled for a servant’s role.
Father, we’re to hold You in holy awe because You are God. But You’ve also adopted us as Your children. Please open me to understand and receive the full benefits of intimacy with You. Forgive me for the times I’ve seen only responsibility when You longed for relationship. How great is the love You have lavished upon us, that we may be called the sons and daughters of God!
Our song for the week is “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” sung here by Selah.
*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
I agree with you. I think the older son had fallen into a relationship with his father that was one of obligation and service. But he was missing the joy of knowing his dad! It is the dad that is important, not the inheritance or the work. If the older son had delighted in his dad, then he would already be happy, because he was always with his dad! And he would delight in his dad’s will. He would see the joy of a prodigal coming home and would rejoice with his dad. I think the older son could have run into his dad’s arms at any time and experienced the same intimacy that the prodigal did. But he chose not to. But we can choose to run into our Dad’s arms at any time! He always welcomes any of us!
Thanks for making me think this morning! 🙂
You’re right, Jenny. It’s the relationship with the dad that matters in the story. And thanks for articulating the intimacy with him so well.
Serving for the inheritance — what we’ll get — is no good. I think I was wrestling to reach the idea of heritage, being in God’s family, and didn’t get far enough.
I really appreciate you clarifying the truth here.
Running into our Dad’s arms… reminds me of my current favourite song, by the Newsboys: “Glorious” — that’s what they’re singing about.