One of Jesus’ most famous parables is the story of the prodigal son. It’s a powerful story of a father’s unconditional love and mercy towards his rebellious son who returns home defeated and ashamed after blowing his inheritance. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s heart towards each and every one of us who at one time or another has taken life into our own hands and walked away from God.
The protagonist is clearly the younger son; however, Jesus specifically mentions a second son – the ELDER son. Watching the warm welcome this “screw-up“ son received, the elder son became angry: What about me? I’ve never once left your side or dishonored you, he complains to the father (my paraphrase). It’s just not fair! And he’s right; it’s not fair.
The father in the story represents God who offers forgiveness and grace free of charge – once we reach that point of finally turning back towards Him. Now, for the younger sons among us, that unconditional love often translates to powerful life changing testimonies. But what about those of us who are the elder sons? Those of us who have been faithful Christians for years? It’s tempting to look down at those rebellious, younger sons with judgement and disdain. It’s amazing how quickly the sins of self-righteousness and pride can take root in our hearts.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees often took on the elder son mentality. They saw only the sins of others and worked hard to earn God’s favor. And yet, today’s modern church is overrun with elder sons. It’s often much easier to point out the flaws of others while remaining blind to our own. And yet, the Father loves BOTH sons. He pursues BOTH sons. His invitation to return home is available to BOTH of his sons. The younger son accepted. So, elder son, will you finally come home as well?