Most of us know the story of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal son is rebellious, takes advantage of his inheritance, squanders everything, realizes his enormous/ selfish mistake, makes the long journey back to his father’s house, expects to be treated like a slave, but instead (and we all love this part) his father sees him from a distance and runs with open arms to embrace him. All is well; all is forgiven. A party is thrown to celebrate his return! The father’s son is alive!
Everyone is excited… except one: the obedient son.
Growing up, this parallel to the Father’s acceptance and forgiveness for us moved me. I loved the idea of always being embraced despite my shortcomings. However, I need to admit, it is the obedient son’s story that I connected with most.
I grew up known as the “good girl.” I accepted Christ at 5 years old, I loved Jesus wholeheartedly, my parents were my youth pastors for years, I sacrificed dreams of attending university to go to Bible school, I saved sex for marriage– you get the idea.
So, as I read this story of a man who knowingly made all of the wrong choices, yet was still given so much, I felt the brother’s response of “… I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat to celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” was totally justified. I mean, he did all of the right things!
Where was his reward? What’s the point of doing right if you aren’t celebrated like the sinners who decide they’re done sinning?
I can remember reading this passage growing up and feeling angry. What if God never rewarded me for being the “good girl?” Were all of my choices pointless and without merit? Imagine holding up our good deeds to God and saying, “Um, hello, does this not impress you?”
I was 24 when the father’s response to the obedient son’s complaints finally settled my worries and fears.
“‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
The greatest reward of remaining in the father’s house is His presence. The obedient son had all the opportunity in the world to be near his father, something the prodigal son chose to go without. In His goodness, God also promises that all He has is for the claiming. He never withholds one good thing from us. But when we have our eyes set on how we compare to others, we will always be blind to the glories of His presence and fulfillment of His promises.
Realizing this also releases us to celebrate others! The father says the prodigal son was lost and dead, but was now found and living, which is amazing! But the obedient son couldn’t celebrate because he was too preoccupied with what he viewed as a disservice to all of his good deeds. Had he removed his focus from himself, he could see the Father was there all along and that the prodigal son’s return didn’t negate that, but instead the event gave him one more reason to serve his incredible, gracious, merciful father.
Be encouraged today that not one thing goes unseen by your heavenly father and that He is always near. When others are in a season of blessings and celebrating, celebrate with them! Don’t miss an opportunity to party.