I love Bible stories. Not only for the story they tell but for the message that is hidden behind the scenes. The Bible is chocked full of narratives of dysfunctional families. Tucked inside each account you’ll discover there’s more to the story than meets the eye. God’s heart is written on the pages of the lives of men, women and children.
Take the Prodigal Son story for example. How many sons do you see in the story? For years I only saw two, the Prodigal Son, and the older brother. But now I see 3.
The Prodigal Son doesn't want to wait for his father to die in order to receive his inheritance. He wants it now. He thinks he will find life outside the father’s house. So he goes to his father, asks for his inheritance and leaves. Independent living is his path. He only needs the father for what He can give to him. He doesn’t really know the heart of his father.
He goes out, squanders all that he has and ends up working in the fields with pigs. It’s then he realizes that the life he's living isn't cutting it. He realizes that what he left behind was really all he needed. He heads back home hoping that his father will at least let him come back and work for him as a hired hand.
The Father’s been watching for him, hoping he would return. While the son is still a long way off, he sees him. He grabs up his royal robes in order to be able to run out and meet him. Filled with compassion, he throws his arms around his son and kisses him. He commands his servants to bring the best robe. He places it on his son’s shoulders, along with a ring on his finger and sandals for his feet. The son is restored to his place in the father’s house, where he belongs. The father calls for the fattened calf to be killed for a feast of celebration. He doesn’t care what his son has done or where he’s been, he only cares that the he has returned and is now in his embrace.
The second son, the older brother, enters into the story. He’s been with the father all along working hard in the fields. Performance and striving are his path. He wants to please his father. He wants a place in the father’s heart. He doesn’t see the value in himself. He hopes his work will be enough.
When he sees the treatment his brother receives, He’s enraged. After all his brother considered his father as good as dead and now he has the gall to return. Why is the father celebrating his brother's return with a party? How come the father has never celebrated him like that?
Comparison kicks in, bringing with it, resentment. All the older son can think about is how hard he has worked for the father, yet no feast has ever been given in his honor. He confronts his father and his father’s response is "Son, all I have has always been yours." The older brother has been so caught up in finding value through his hard work that he never entered in to live as a son who was loved and celebrated. Love has always been there waiting for him. He could not see.
The 3rd son in the story is the Son who is telling the story, Jesus. He knew the heart of the Father. He knew His place there. He didn’t have to do anything to earn the Father’s love. He knew He was loved, therefore He lived love. His life is the invitation to us all. As the Father loved His Son, so we are loved.
Three sons paint the portrait of God here. The prodigal son didn’t see the value of the Father. The older brother didn’t see the value of himself. Jesus saw both. You can’t really live this life with God without both, but many do. Many do not see their place with the father. Many spend their time hoping that their good works will be enough. Comparison reveals that in a heart. For if you know your place there is no need to compare.
There is a special place in the heart of God that you hold. It is yours and yours alone. It has nothing to do with what you do or don’t do. You belong because you are His offspring. All he has has always been yours. That blows me away. All that God has has been there waiting for you, and for me. The invitation has been extended. Will you enter into the Father's house into His embrace? Will you leave it all behind and just be loved? The feast awaits.
©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd
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