So many times I have heard and read this story and each and every time the story, to me, was about the unconditional love of a father to a lost son. This was a symbol of God’s love for us and how he accepts us back into his arms despite our transgressions.
Though this time, I thought about the younger brother. Before he decided to come back to his father’s house he had a repentant heart. He stood in a pig’s sty (this must have been his lowest moment) and vowed to confess his sins “Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you” Luke 15:21.
Let’s put this into context; He practically disowned his family, squandered all of his inheritance and was now left with nothing. This must have really humbled him. Not only was it a big deal to do all of the above, but to do so was saying that his father was as good as dead and he was better off without him.
This was SO disrespectful to the father and in that community they would have all been exiled! Despite knowing all of this he came back, to confess his wrongs and serve his family and community. This is the first time that I realised that this is how we should be when approaching God.
Yes, God is loving and forgiving, just as the father was in the parable – but there is something about the state of our heart that God cares so deeply for. It was the son’s confession that brought full restoration to the family. He approached the father and the father was able to offer him all he had once more and generously.
In light of all of this, there is another person who is somewhat overshadowed in the story and this is the elder brother. His heart is completely wrong. He feels entitled to what the father has and now his younger brother has been accepted back into the family with open arms, he now realises that he has to share all that he has been working for.
The fathers response is very open and you can clearly see the equal amount of love: “everything that is mine is yours” he says, as his son refuses to join in the feast to celebrate his brothers return.
Now, let’s not judge him. As we have all been there, but it is clear to see the difference in their hearts. The younger brother made a mistake and “was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!” The brother who had been right by his dad’s side was very bitter. This entitlement he felt actually left him blinded.
God is generous, just because the person next to you got better grades doesn’t mean that you also cannot be blessed (obviously, you will need to revise; God is also not a genie lol). Sometimes, being a Christian for so long can make us feel entitled and this can lead to anger and resentment towards God. If we look at how the father reacted, we know that God is not spiteful or malicious.
“if you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11 ESV