Luke 15:25-32. Verses 29-30 – ‘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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
I love the fifteenth chapter of Luke. Three parables of something being lost, then found and a celebration with a group because the lost was found and now was where it should be. But the last parable has a twist at the end that is very important for us to understand.
The older brother was upset! I believe I would have been as well. Ever since he was young, he had worked on his father’s farm, without ever asking for any kind of recognition. But when his good-for-nothing, playboy brother came home penniless after squandering his inheritance, his father not only welcomed him with open arms but even put on a banquet to celebrate. It was too much.
The father pleaded with him and explained the reason for his actions, but the older son refused to join the celebration. Like the Pharisees who served God out of a sense of duty, the older son had served his father—not out of devotion and love but because he felt he had to. The Pharisees had complained that Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them (Luke 15:2). Similarly, the older son belly ached about his father’s welcome of his depraved, immoral, useless, younger brother.
The response of the older son forces us to take a hard look at ourselves. Do we serve the Lord with love and devotion? Do we come to worship because we love the Lord, or out of a sense of duty? Do we give cheerfully or because it is expected of us? Are we willing, like God the Father, to forgive people in our lives who have hurt us? Do we understand that we are as much in need of forgiveness as the younger son, even though we may not have left for a distant country? This twist in the parable calls for some self-examination and some honest reflection.
Am I just living my Christian life as a familiar pattern or ritual or am I truly at home with the Lord?
Lord, our God, help us to search our hearts, to serve you with gladness, and to truly rejoice when a sinner comes back to you—because of Jesus. Amen.