If you spent more than ten minutes in Sunday School as a kid you know the parable of The Prodigal Son. But since that doesn’t work with O-week at ABC Wednesday, I’m going to look at the parable from the opposite point of view from what we’ve always learned.
So, as I wander through the bible for this round, O is for the older brother of that wayward son.
As you remember, the younger son of a man (let’s call them Junior and Jeremiah) asked for his part of the inheritance early. After all, it was his and why should he have to wait until dad dies to enjoy it? So Jerry graciously gives it to him. As soon as the cash is in hand, he’s outta there…gone to live large and enjoy the free-wheeling life of a bachelor.
But soon the cash is gone and Junior’s living in a pig pen with not a denari to him name. He pulls himself out of the muck and stumbles home, hoping dad will forgive his foolishness and welcome him back into the family. Jerry, who has been watching the horizon ever since Junior left, suddenly spies his son in the distance. He breaks a land speed record running out to meet him. It doesn’t matter where he’s been or what’s he’s done. He’s home! Overjoyed his son has returned, he throws a big welcome home party. What once was lost has been found!
But, hold on a darn second……
What about the older son? Why does Junior get a party for acting like a spoiled brat? Why is dad making such a big deal about this son who obviously shows no maturity or common sense? Come to think of it, why did dad give him his part of the inheritance early to begin with? Today, we call that enabling.
Number One Son comes in from working in the fields. He’s understandably surprised to see his no-good little brother back from doing God knows what. But he’s even more surprised at his dad’s compassion. Number One Son refuses to join the party. He’s hurt. He’s bitter. He’s angry. After all, he’s the responsible, dutiful one that’s been working the fields day in and day out without any vacation. It’s just not fair. We can almost hear the stamping of the foot.
We’ve all been here. We’ve been the responsible adult. Paid our dues. Worked hard. Kept ourselves in line and held it together. And that’s what should be rewarded. Right?
But, hold on a darn second……
No one said Jerry loved Junior more than Number One Son. After all, #1 is going to receive two thirds of the estate just by being fortunate enough to born first. I’m sure Dad extended many graces to #1 over the years. But what parent isn’t heartbroken when a child of theirs makes poor choices? What parent doesn’t long for the day when their child realizes the mistakes they’ve made and decides to turn his/her life around? And when that day arrives, should that parent say, Sorry, too little, too late?
Number One Son doesn’t get it. He can’t get past his own bitterness and resentment to be happy for his dad…and his bother. It doesn’t matter to him that Junior had to learn a lesson the hard way. It doesn’t matter that the family could be reunited. It doesn’t matter that dad doesn’t have to sit up at night anymore wondering about the safety of his youngest child.
It doesn’t matter because #1 is only concerned about #1…bitter and resentful that his brother is getting all the attention, and he isn’t.
JC told this parable to make a point with the religious leaders of the day. They criticized his time spent with undesirable people…the people stuck in the pig pens of life…the prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, lepers, thieves etc. These leaders refused to be happy that JC was showing these people compassion, forgiving their sins and extending grace that was changing their lives. They didn’t like the way everyone was rejoicing when one of them crawled out of the muck and was given the robe of redemption. Nooooooo, all they could see was their own resentment. After all, they were the good guys, the ones everyone should be making a big deal over; the ones that deserved attention and respect.
We’re kinda like that today, aren’t we? How many times do we…
pass judgement on someone’s actions, but withhold our joy when they change?
resent the fact that someone else gets the attention we think we deserve?
remain bitter and resentful when someone who was lost is found?