Prodigal Son

posted Oct 27, 2012, 2:57 PM by Phil Clark   [ updated Aug 27, 2015, 12:16 PM by Sonrise Lightmyway ]
Tim, our table leader at our Growth Group training session a few weeks back led a training discussion using the story of the prodigal son.
He later commented that, from his perspective, the story for him was about 2 sons, one who remained broken and one who was healed.
That got me thinking how little I stopped to think about the older brother.  Growing up with two older brothers, I was always quick to identify with the prodigal.

We tend to look at the prodigal son story as being mostly about the father and the prodigal son.  At face value, it is easy to draw that conclusion.  We don't often examine the other brother, the one who was the responsible son.  Could it be that the story was more of a commentary on the responsible brother who worked hard to do everything right and who felt that his right living entitled him to more of his father's favor?

I reflected more on the passage and found myself thinking of the ways I try to earn God's approval and, in essence, my inheritance as his son.
It occurred to me that the story's meaning may be less about how forgiving God is (though his forgiveness is perfect) or how depraved man is (and we are totally lost in sin), as we tend to think of it.    Instead, it occurred to me that the story may have more to do with revealing through the responsible son the root of our illness.  The story revealed the hearts of the religious leaders of the time and of our tendency to want to earn God's favor.  The religious leaders' entire world view about God was performance oriented.  They did everything right in regards to the law, but their hearts were far from God. 

How much of our obedience is based on earning God's favor?  How much of our striving to be better Christians is all about insecurity?  Instead of our obedience being a love response to a perfectly forgiving God, we make it about performing for God.    I think that the prodigal is a watershed story that Jesus used to plant His flag announcing a new kingdom at hand.   Grace saves....not works.     Jesus used the story to blast legalism out of the water.    When we see God's blessings lavished on those who haven't "earned their position" or "paid their dues", does it play to our sense of fairness or does it bring us joy?  Do we feel joy for the undeserving person who is experiencing God's goodness or do we feel jealousy and judgement?   Doesn't the older son reflect the pharisees and sadducees of Jesus' time?  How easy it is for all of us to slip back into that kind of thinking today.

I also thought about the prodigal himself.  I wondered what my inheritance was and how I might be trying to run away with it prematurely, as the prodigal did.  I thought about how I tend to worship my spiritual gifts, instead of worshiping the giver of those gifts.  When I look to use my gifts for personal gain, aren't I just like the prodigal, asking for the blessing ahead of schedule?  Do I submit the use of my gifts to the leading of the Holy Spirit, or do I run ahead of the Spirit with my gifts, so that I can be recognized for what a great guy I am by others?   

I realized that I identify with both the older brother and the prodigal.  I also identified with the Father.  When my two girls come to me with a request, I want to give them everything I have.  God has not been a tightwad with us.  He gave us his Son and all things with that.  A part of God the Father's heart is embedded in my heart and I experience that as a father to my daughters.

Such a rich story and one we can all relate to at some level.