Old Testament: Judges 17 & 18
Poetry: Psalm 115
*New Testament: Luke 15
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a perennial favorite in Sunday School lessons. As a child, how many of us studied this lesson on God’s forgiveness? I imagine most hands being raised! As adults, how many of us have taught our own children or other youth about redemption through this parable? Again, I can envision many nods of agreement!
Between you and me, I intensely disliked this parable in my youth and early adulthood. Don’t get me wrong; I understood the meaning and value of the parable. Through it, we learn that no mistake can separate us from God’s love and that He will always desire for us to return to the sanctuary of that love.
However, a part of me always sympathized with the older brother. I understood his indignation, albeit misplaced, over the celebration of his wayward younger brother. Can’t you just hear the anger and self-righteousness dripping from his words in verses 29-30? “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!”
Minus the part of being given a kid or killing a fatted calf, those words could have been mine. As the youngest of four girls, I understood the older brother’s resistance to the celebration. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I strived to be the “good child,” not giving my parents cause for grief, assisting them in old age, and caring for them in sickness. As I devoted my time to my parents’ needs, my sisters’ seeming freedom and my parents’ unconditional love towards them caused my resentment to grow unchecked.
It was during my father’s last months when I had my “Aha” moment. In one of our final conversations, he told me, “We always loved all of you girls. You all just needed our love in different ways.” During our conversation, I realized that my parents’ love for my sisters didn’t diminish their love for me. Love wasn’t meant to be a competition in the way I tried to make it. Love isn’t something to be given to a sole recipient, hoarded and kept from others. In fact, love isn’t something to be earned or gained through works. Love is given freely in spite of ourselves and our works.
I hope the older son of this parable also had an “Aha” moment. Based on the final verses, I’d like to think he did. Read verse 28 in the parable again. When the older brother had his temper tantrum, his father “came out and entreated him.” His father so desired for him to be part of the celebration that he left the party to go find him. Then in verse 31, the father says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” In his words, we see that the father’s love is multifaceted. Just because he loves one brother and rejoices in his homecoming, doesn’t mean that he loves the other brother any less. In fact, he acknowledges that he appreciates the older brother’s hard work and is already blessing him for his devotion. But the father confirms that he also loves the younger brother and that this love is freely given, in spite of each brother’s work or personality.
If our earthly parents can love all siblings with equal love, imagine how much greater it is with God’s love! In those final verses of the parable, we are reassured that God’s love has room for everyone, whether it is a faithful worker or someone returning to Him. Throughout 1 John 4, we are reminded that “God is love.” In this chapter and in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we see that the very nature of God is to love and do all things within the scope of His love for us.
We should not possess envy or resentment towards others in their faith journey because we are reminded in 1 John 4:20-21, “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” From now on, as I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I’ll be reminded to focus my eyes on the father of the story. Do I rest in the love of God? And, how do I show that love to others?
Throughout your walk this week, how can you share God’s unconditional love with others? Is there someone, like the younger brother, who could use your encouragement as they seek their way to God? Or, is there someone, like the older brother, working hard but needs a gentle reminder that we are saved by faith not works?
- Focusing on the Father – do you rest in the love of God? And, how do you show that love to others?
- Throughout your walk this week, how can you share God’s unconditional love with others? Is there someone, like the younger brother, who could use your encouragement as they seek their way to God? Or, is there someone, like the older brother, working hard but needs a gentle reminder that we are saved by faith not works?
- Through Jesus’ parables what do we learn about the heart, motives, purposes, desires, words and actions of his Father?