The parable of the Prodigal Son is so full of meaning that the more we look at it the more is revealed about God’s love for us. Just recently I found myself looking again at the attitude of the elder brother. On one level he`s the epitome of the self-righteous religious people of Jesus` time. But, on another level he resembles many of us in some ways, and some of us in many ways. And I`m referring to myself when I write this! What struck me this time was his sense of entitlement, which I`ve translated as “God, You owe me!”
I wonder if you`ve encountered Christians with this attitude. Perhaps they`ve diligently served God for years. All has been fine, but then something serious happens to them. There`s loss of a loved one, personal illness, loss of employment, financial distress, divorce, or being made homeless. After the shock comes the sense of indignation, disbelief, and anger towards God. "How can this be happening to me? I`ve followed God, and I`ve been a good Christian, tithed, come to church, and now this happens. It`s just not fair!” They`re effectively saying they should be exempt from personal suffering because of what they`ve done for God. Exactly the attitude and response of the elder brother. “God, you owe me!”
It`s interesting that Jesus never promises us an easy life as a Christian – far from it. He never suggested that giving our lives to Him would give us a free pass from the sufferings that others experience. But He did promise to be with us in everything that we experience. If anyone could have claimed entitlement it was Jesus himself, and yet Philippians 2:5-11 shows how much He was prepared to give up and how far He was prepared to go - for us.
As believers, we live in a fallen world, where we`re subject to trials and tribulations like anyone else. There are many things that happen to us and our loved ones that may not seem fair; some seem the very opposite of fair. But I`m not saying that suffering and loss shouldn`t make us angry. We can express that feeling of anger to God, and we find the Psalmist doing exactly that in Psalm 94. But, this side of eternity we can`t always understand the reason why things that happen, but we can choose to trust God anyway. Many have likened our lives to a tapestry, where we`re only able to see the reverse side, with threads crossed over and in a mess. God sees the front where all is in perfect order, and one day we shall too, `For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully know` (1 Corinthians 13:12). So, lets make a choice to trust Him; to believe that He really is faithful, and, while owing us nothing, promises to be with us always.
Prayer: Father God, there are so many things I just don`t understand - So many things that seem unfair and unjust. I recognise that we live in a fallen world, and the reality of this sometimes only hits home when it affects me personally. I recognise there might be times when my attitude to personal events seems like the elder brother – `God, you owe me!`. I don`t want that to happen. So, I turn to You and choose today to put my trust in You. I hand over to You all my lack of understanding, and even the desire to understand. I choose to seek Your comfort in my darkest hours, because You`re the God of all comfort. Amen.
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