Many a sermon has been inspired by Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a story that everyone, young and old can understand, and to which many a family can relate.
Much is made of the younger son who recklessly demanded his inheritance from his father so that he could go off into the world and spend it how he wished. But, what of the older brother who stayed behind, faithfully carrying out his father’s wishes.
When the younger son returned, very hungry and in reduced circumstances, his father’s reaction exhibited joy and generosity, both of which overflowed in abundance. However, the elder brother’s reaction couldn’t have been in more stark contrast. He may not physically have gone into a ‘far country’ like his brother, but the coldness of the far country had crept into his heart unawares, and the joy of carrying out his father’s wishes had been replaced by the hard coldness of duty.
There are many warnings in scripture, but this must surely be one of them. The joy of the Lord is our strength – so do we still serve our Heavenly Father with joy? Or, has the joy of the Lord imperceptibly seeped away when our focus has moved away from Him who is the Lord of Life?
While the younger son discovered that the grass was not greener on the other side, and returned in abject humility, the older brother was yet to yield his heart in repentance and re-commitment. His lack of compassion for his brother, coupled with an expression of his own piety eventually spilled out (verse 28-30).
The Father’s response, however, echoed that of our Heavenly Father. He was exhilarated at the return of the younger son from his errant ways and showed his joy in the welcome and festive preparations that ensued.
But the abundance of the Father’s treasure was also always available for the elder son – if he but knew it. “My Son…. you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours”. He did not have to slave away to prove his worth to his father for the wealth of his Father was already lavished upon him – he just needed to recognise it.
Humility was the key to both these sons returning to their father and it is the only ground on which our Heavenly Father is waiting with open arms to receive us.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Help us to guard our hearts lest we allow other things to replace you on the throne of our hearts. Help us Lord, to keep our gaze on thee, the author of Life, that our joy might remain full as we walk with thee day by day. Amen.
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