In the story of the Prodigal Son which I believe would be more aptly named the Prodigal Father, there are three characters. There is the father who owns a large estate and two sons. You can read the whole story in Luke 15 or check out yesterday’s post for the Cliff Notes version.
The outstanding characteristic of the father is his reckless, lavish, unconditional love for his son who squandered his inheritance, dishonoring his father and their cultural customs in the process. He kept his eye out for his son’s return every day so when his son was on the way home, he saw him from a long way off.
The older son, while not displaying the same lavish love for his brother, is far easier for me to relate to. He could not find it within himself to rejoice when his brother returned home. The wasteful use of his inheritance was all he could see and he determined that he could not applaud someone who was so careless. Refusing to come into the party, he pointed, judged and shamed his brother.
How often have I stood in the place of judge toward my fellow humans? Sometimes it is jealousy that prevents me from rejoicing with the successes of others. Other times, it is my judgement that the person hasn’t earned the right to be celebrated. I find that I keep a scales well oiled and operational and when needed, I put the perceived good on one side and perceived evil on the other. I then respond to whichever side wins out – my perception of the good and evil in another.
Except that isn’t what we are supposed to do and scripture would indicate that I cannot possibly know the heart condition or motives of another. While it may seem to my human eye that a person has not adequately repented or done the work of penance, it simply is not in my wheelhouse to make that determination.
Rather, it is my responsibility to forgive as I have been forgiven; to give as freely as I have received. Perhaps the reason I find it difficult to give is because I haven’t fully received. I haven’t experienced the lavish love of the Father in my own life?
12I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.I John 2:12
8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!Matthew 10:8
Stop for just a minute and ponder the older brother? Is there any way that he reflects your own response to others? What prevents you from rejoicing when others prosper, succeed, are promoted? Would it be a fitting discipline to consciously speak words of affirmation, praise and rejoicing to someone today?