“But what about me?” says the other son. And with him I, too, say “Yeah, what about me?”
More about the other son in a minute.
But first, what about the prodigal son? You realize, of course, that the little titles in your Bible are not inspired and are technically not part of the Bible. While we’re at it, the chapters weren’t introduced into Bibles until the 13th Century and verses not until the Geneva (or “Breeches”) Bible of the 16th Century.
My point is that I think another good title for the story might be not “The Prodigal Son” but “Two Faithful Sons.” “Two,” because there is that other son, and “Faithful” because in the end the prodigal son is transformed into a faithful son.
Since this parable is a continuation of yesterday’s lesson, I won’t belabor the point about God the Father’s joy at the return of His prodigal (wasteful) sons. It is obvious what delight the father in the story has at seeing his son return, and we should always keep in mind our heavenly Father’s delight at our returns to Him.
But did you notice the way the prodigal son returned? He manifests a kind of repentance that isn’t as common as it ought to be. Though he’s obviously been thinking about it for a while, when he finally returns to his senses and to his father, the prodigal (now faithful) son doesn’t hold anything back. He doesn’t make excuses for how he acted. He doesn’t bargain with the father and try to hold on to some of his former evil lifestyle.
No, what he says is “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is a fair estimate of our position before God, and yet sometimes we want to come to God with some of the spoils of Hell still intact. But not this now faithful son.
The prodigal son’s return is dramatic, and sometimes when someone repents and returns to his heavenly Father, it is a dramatic affair. When it is, often that returning sinner gets a lot of attention and some of us other sons are tempted to become jealous over the lavish attention that is paid.
What the other son didn’t remember and what we don’t always remember is that those of us who have walked with God for a long time and not seriously backslidden are allowed to eat and drink with our Father every day and to enjoy His company. But sometimes we get too accustomed to it to appreciate what is offered so freely every day. What we don’t realize is that it’s possible to live in our Father’s house and yet still live as a little prodigal. We may not have walked away from God completely, and yet because we do not fully participate in the life of Christ as we should, we become little prodigals, wasting the incredible gifts that God offers His sons and daughters every day.
There is a danger, too, in craving or coveting the spectacular. I remember in my college days going to hear Mike Warnke speak at the Texas A&M campus where he regaled us with spellbinding stories about his life of drugs and Satanism (which, it turns out, may not be true). I remember hearing other people at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship talk about their dramatic turns to God and sometimes felt left out. Gee, all I had to show was a life born into a good Christian family that was a very slow and gradual line upward and no dramatic mountains or valleys.
And then one day I woke up and realized what a blessing it was to have always been in my Father’s house – I just hadn’t realized it. Which is more of a miracle? The life of the prodigal son who has a dramatic conversion from a life of utter depravity or the life of a faithful son God has held in His hand from the day of his birth?
So then, it is a reason to celebrate every time a sinner repents, as often as a sinner repents, even Christian sinners. But it is also a reason to celebrate every day that is spent in our Father’s house as a faithful son or daughter.
Prayer: Lord, I pray that I may never take the good life you have given me with You for granted but would always seek the joy that comes from obedience, whether the obedience that follows repentance or the obedience that follows faithfulness. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. In what ways have you been a prodigal son – one who wastes his Father’s inheritance? Find one way to make a small beginning to be less prodigal.
2. In what ways have you been an heir of God and yet have not appreciated this or given thanks for it?
Resolution: I resolve to rejoice with those who repent and to celebrate every day I spend in my Father’s house.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day