“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'” (Luke 15:31-32).
Read Luke 15:11-32. Too often we see men and women who are living like the older brother in this story, and we can’t even tell there’s a problem. These people are in church. Some of them may even teach Sunday school, volunteer to help run vacation Bible school, or host a small group. The older son is really not that different from his younger brother.
Both sons wanted what their father could give them, but neither was truly invested in his relationship with him. The younger son chose the more direct approach. He essentially told the father to drop dead so he could have his inheritance ahead of schedule. The older brother was more patient. He chose the route of obedience. He would earn the things he wanted from his father. He would do all the right things, and that would give him a right to all the things he wanted.
At the end of Jesus’ parable, in the midst of a tremendous celebration to welcome home the younger son, the older son is fuming. He tells his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (v. 29). There are people like this in churches today, just like the Pharisees who were listening to this parable. They believe that their good behavior entitles them to the Father’s blessings. Not only are they presuming upon the goodness of God, they are missing out on the greatest blessing of all: knowing their heavenly Father! Sinners often recognize their need for a Savior, but those who seem like they have it all together on the outside have trouble seeing their great need.
Jesus’ parable ends abruptly. The father invites his older son to the party. In fact, he is pleading with his boy to join in the festivities. But we are never told how the son responds. The story ends without his answer. The implication is this: God stands ready to welcome home every lost sinner, including those Pharisees and scribes, if only they will recognize their need for a Savior. Now is the time to answer this unbelievably gracious invitation.
Prayer: Father, Your mercy and grace are astounding. I praise You for Your faithful love. Help me to see the ways I am trying to earn favor with You so that I may repent and by Your grace be truly free in Your salvation. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.