As I mentioned last week, Jesus used many different styles to teach the people, but the parable seemed to be His favorite style of teaching. He explained to His closest followers the reason for the use of parables. Parables actually obscure much of the knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures from those who have no interest in knowing the truth; yet to any and everyone who is serious about discovering truth and who seeks it out through study, research, prayer and meditation it will be opened up to them.
This week’s “not so obvious” truth which most of you probably haven’t given much thought to, but which is important to understand if you are to become the complete person God intended for you and if you are to be used by Him to your full potential is found in what is most often referred to as “the parable of the prodigal son.”
I entitle the lesson: You may not be a prodigal son, but a self-righteous brother is nothing to brag about.
Who hasn’t heard the parable Jesus told of the rebellious son of a wealthy man who demanded his father give him his inheritance while he was still young so he could go off and live like he darned well pleased. After he quickly wasted all his new-found wealth and found himself homeless and scrounging through garbage to survive, the humbled boy decides to return to the old man’s manor and grovel to be taken in as a servant. Jesus likens the character of the father to God, who waits and watches expectantly for the young man to come to his senses and return home, and then runs out to meet him the moment he sees him come into view, and restores him to good standing in the family.
What is given much less interest is the attitude of the older brother. He has undeniably demonstrated his faithfulness by remaining with the father to help him manage the estate. Human nature would conclude that he is justifiably miffed by all the attention his father pours out on the formerly recalcitrant youth, and that he probably has reason to question the sincerity of the remorse shown by the young man.
But is he really that much different than his brother? He willfully separates himself from his father by declining the man’s personal invitation to join the celebration. We can live in the same house, attend the same church, be partners in the same business, or belong to the same social club; but if we’re not joined at the hip with common goals and self-sacrificing to attain the same end, if we’re moving in different directions in fact or in attitude, then we’re “separated.”
Pride, self-righteousness, and the belief that our spiritual inheritance and our relationship with the Father was earned and thus owed to us – all tend to separate us from the character that is God’s and in Whose image we were created. Unlike the prodigal whose behavior drives him to the bottom of the pit physically and emotionally, attitudinal rebellion is much harder to recognize and acknowledge and therefore more difficult to recover from. Don’t put yourself in that dangerous position.