Prodigal Adjustments, Part 3
Luke 15:26-32 “Now [the father’s] older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
No look at this parable would be complete without some attention paid to the older son. Many a sermon has been preached as a warning not to be like him. It’s obvious on one hand why—he’s unloving, judgmental, stubborn and petulant, and refuses to welcome back his formerly rebellious brother. (His ugly phrase “this son of yours” is insulting to both his brother and his father.)
But there are two things to add to the usual observations. Again, it is the father who initiates the entire exchange. Since the older son would not go in to join the festivities, the father went outside to see him. This is similar to the father running to meet his younger son upon his return. For those of us who can relate in some small way to the older son’s feelings, it’s good to know that while we are wrong (as he was), it is our Father who still comes to us to draw us out. He doesn’t leave us outside and alone in our misery, but draws near to engage us. May we simply be more open to our Father’s words and His heart than this son was.
Two, we can see that both sons were struggling with the same issue—relating to Father as boss/employer. The younger son had to have his attempts at recreating the relationship bypassed and then replaced by a new fresh father-son connection. The older son was already living in the servant/master relationship the younger son was trying to create. The older son didn’t even speak to his father as a father, but instead pointed to his many years of diligent service (”Lo, these many years I have been serving you…”), insinuating that he worked for and deserved the kind of treatment he saw his younger brother receiving.
Happily, the wise father’s first words were, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” How tragic that the older son hadn’t seen that, nor had he enjoyed it. He had never enjoyed the father-son relationship that existed, and hadn’t seen or enjoyed the blessings that accompanied it. What a loss!
What a loving, patient, relational Father we have. Whether we are rebellious or sinking into a low-level relationship with Him, our Lord reaches out and comes to us to draw us back into the kind of connection that He died to create for us. May we always see that and be encouraged when we read this parable.
Prayer: Father, thank You that You not only take back the repentant rebel, but that You also reach out to the legalist and the tired worker who’s lost sight that he/she is an adopted son of God who has all the benefits of that relationship. May I always self-identify first as a loved child of God.
Note: Thanks to my brother Chris DuPré (The Wild Love of God) for his contribution to this final line.