The father said to the older son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” – Luke 15:31-32
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables in a row – lost sheep, lost coin, and lost (or prodigal) son. The point is clear: Jesus came to seek and save the lost. In fact, he tells us that all of heaven rejoices – throws a party, even – whenever one stray child repents. Seeking and saving the lost is surely the most important theme in this string of parables.
But woven into the lost son story is another important theme. We know the story of the prodigal son; this is the story of the jealous brother. The prodigal son, of course, demanded his inheritance early, ran away, and squandered his fortune on dissolute living. When he came to his senses, he returned home utterly humble and humiliated. And what did his father do? Rejoiced! He threw a party, even!
And what did the older brother do? He pouted. Jealously. The older brother wasn’t crass enough to run away, essentially saying to his father, “I wish you were dead because I want my inheritance now.” Nevertheless, he clearly didn’t treat his daily relationship with his father as a blessing. He stayed because of duty. He worked for his father because he thought it entitled him to a reward.
Now, a parable is a subtle story that teaches us spiritual points. And the spiritual question that the older brother in this story prompts is whether you ever feel like you’re just joylessly slaving away at your faith, trusting that there must somehow, someway, be a reward in the end. Is that ever your view of faith and service?
Through this section of this parable Jesus is inviting you to rediscover the joy of having always been with Him. The older brother was missing that, wasn’t he? He had become numb to the daily blessing of being with the father. And how about you … what are you doing to experience joy in the presence of your father? Indeed, we are beginning a new fall season in the church: What are you doing this year to rekindle your joy?!
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who is working more
with youth, this fall, and
it’s rekindling my joy!