Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stay-at-home prodigal

"Prodigal's Brother" Woodcut
by Johann Christoph Weigel 1695  
 TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 15:11-32

TO CHEW ON: “’But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.’” Luke 15:30-31

I love this story for its hopefulness about prodigals – both those who leave and those who stay home. Trouble is, I find myself identifying with one of them. Maybe it’s because I too am an oldest child and tend to be duty-driven that I empathize with that older brother.

He was all work and responsibility with, no doubt, a pinch of self-pity and a dash of self-righteousness. He probably resented the fact that he was left at home to work for Dad but may have congratulated himself on his work ethic and moral lifestyle. Perhaps he even dreamed of the day his brother would return and get a tongue-lashing from Dad. Of course Dad would hold him up as the example to follow. Thus on the day older brother returned from work to find the house alight and vibrating with celebration over the return of the scoundrel, his unmet expectations boiled over in stubborn standoffishness, and then, when Dad begged him to join the party, a heated exchange.

Their little conversation illustrates some things about stay-at-home prodigals, who can be just as distant in their relationship with God as their runaway counterparts.

1. Even though he lived with his father, the older son didn’t really know him. Surely he had seen his dad go out every day to scan the horizon for a sign of the kid returning. Yet that action never registered as yearning father-love, and big bro was surprised by his father’s delight at the prodigal’s return.

2. He didn’t communicate with his father. When he objected to Dad’s lavish celebration with “…you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends,” father replied, “Son, you are always with me.” I read that as, ‘Why didn’t you ask? I was here all the time.’

3. He didn’t know what was at his disposal. He could have had that young goat and much more. “All that I have is yours,” his dad told him.

If we find traces of ourselves in the stay-at-home prodigal, we can change the situation by working on his three areas of lack.

  • We can get to know God. We see God the Father at work in the Old Testament. Jesus, His Son, lives out God’s father-heart of love in the New. We can get to know Him and His love for us and for everyone, deserving or irresponsible, as we read the Bible.
  • We can communicate with Him – in prayer. “You do not have because you do not ask,” James says.
  • We can get familiar with our inheritance and begin enjoying all the wonderful things at our disposal as children of God right now.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank You for telling this inclusive story. We are all prodigals. Thank You for welcoming us back. Amen.

MORE: Know your inheritance:
The older brother may have saved himself a lot of grief if he had realized his father's generosity with his inheritance even while he (Dad) was still alive. We too have a grand inheritance now:

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