The story of the Prodigal Son is a cherished Bible story of my youth. It ranks right up there with David and Goliath, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. It is found in only one of the four gospels – Luke 15:11-32.
If you’ve never heard the story, it is a parable Jesus told to illustrate a beautiful lesson. A father has two sons. The younger son comes to the father and asks for his share of the inheritance early. Within a few days, he had taken his inheritance and moved away to a distant land. He later squanders all of his money in what the Bible calls “wild living.” All alone, poor and starving, he realizes that he would be better off as a servant in his father’s house than living the way he is living.
He returns home with the intention of being nothing more than a servant. He is welcomed back, however, with open arms by his father. His father even throws a party in his honor.
Meanwhile, the older brother is quite upset about this chain of events. He doesn’t understand why his brother is getting all of this special treatment after squandering all of his father’s money on “prostitutes.” After all, it was the older brother who never left his father’s side.
Jesus finishes the parable with the father’s reply to the older son… “everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31-32) The older son had been so jealous of his brother that he failed to recognize the fact that his father had already given him everything he had.
What an amazing story of reconciliation! Jesus was giving us a perfect example of God’s love towards His children. The Bible says that we are all sinners, just like the prodigal son. He is willing and waiting for us to come home, and He will welcome us with open arms!
What I have always found interesting about this parable, however, is that it doesn’t simply end with the son returning home. Jesus includes the older brother in this story. As Christians, I think it is often difficult for us to relate to the older brother. He is generally seen as the “villain” in the story who is jealous that his younger brother received such a warm welcome. Most of us would like to believe that we would never behave that way.
It’s important as believers to truly hear and apply the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach in this story. Every time a “brother” comes home, we have a choice to make. Do we act like the older brother in this story? Or do we welcome the prodigal home with open arms as the father did?
The prodigal isn’t just returning to the Father, He’s returning to the family of God, and all of us are called to receive him with arms open wide.
Because the story of the prodigal son is a parable, we know that Jesus was illustrating a spiritual truth about our relationship with God as well as our relationships with other believers. In this story, the youngest son started out as a child of God. He wasn’t a non-believer who had never known his father. Instead, he strayed from the father of his youth and literally squandered all he had on living in sin.
God still welcomed him back with open arms, and He expects us to do the same when our “brothers” return home.
We need to be careful as believers when dealing with those who are trying to return to the family. Instead of seeing them for their past mistakes, we need to see them the way God sees them. Because Jesus already paid for their sins on the cross, He sees them as whole and pure. Their sins are forgiven, and their slate is wiped clean.
Jesus, I ask that you would give me Your eyes. Allow me to see others the way You see them – forgiven.