It was the best day of the father’s life; he had to celebrate. Knowing that, his son refused to come to the party. “Everything I have is yours,” the father pleaded, but his son was not moved.
So ends Jesus’ greatest parable about the “Prodigal Son.” But there are actually two sons in the story, and it’s the “prodigal,” the wandering one, who finds his way home. His older brother was the responsible one, the sensible one, the one who stayed home and did his duty. Shockingly, it was the older brother, not the “prodigal,” who, at the end of the story, was outside the feast of salvation looking in.
Jesus was speaking to the religious insiders of his day. They were the serious, the responsible ones. They did their duty; they kept the religious traditions of the people intact. Jesus had aimed this parable at them.
How do you tell religious insiders that they’re lost?
Growing up, I was the eldest of three children. I was the responsible one. I became an Air Force officer, did my duty. But I was in my fifties, in seminary, when the meaning of this story became real to me. I’d always thought the lesson was, “Stay home, do your duty. Don’t be like the irresponsible younger brother.”
I was completely wrong. That’s not the lesson at all.
Do you get it? If not, I don’t condemn you. It took me about 55 years.
If you’ve achieved your goals in life, but found that things don’t satisfy…
If you’ve failed at everything, and found yourself at the bottom…
Whether you’re an elder brother or a younger brother, this is what you most need to know: There is a father who comes to you, who longs to embrace you and meet you just where you are.
Do you get it? The Christian faith will make little sense until you do.
Base your worth on his love for you.
Come in to his party. It’s for you.