Luke 15:11-24 And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living… And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
I’ve heard the story of the prodigal preached about the prodigal and the elder brother… but some things stood out to me this morning in a different way.
The prodigal wasn’t afraid to go to his dad and ask for his living. He didn’t seem to struggle with leaving home. Not once does Jesus mention him being rebuked or berated for either action. On the contrary, it appears that his dad did what he asked without comment. Further, no one was angry that when he returned he was accepted, just that he got a party and the older brother didn’t.
The prodigal wasn’t put on probation. No one said, “Well, let him come on up to the house and we’ll see.” No, his dad ran to him, and received him even with the stench of hogs and travel dust on his clothes. Then, as the prodigal began to rehearse his speech, his dad stopped him! He didn’t let him wallow in repentance; it was obvious that he was repentant. His dad forgave him before he could finish and stopped him before he could ask to be as a hired servant. No, he was immediately his son again.
The servants didn’t say anything. They did as the Father bid. And there is no mention of them murmuring or revolting. Just the older brother’s jealousy.
How many people would be in church if people considered God’s response to the prodigal… and remembered that they are not God, but only His servants?
I’ve heard righteous zeal and holy anger of God’s servants praised in churches. Godly sorrow might be a better response to many supposed failures though. It is far past time to stop proclaiming prodigal everyone who leaves a building and Christian everyone on the pews, and start loving others. After all, God did.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.