The Other Son

The Other Son

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “The Prodigal Son”. And I’d guess you’re probably familiar with the story. Even so, I’ll summarize the parable here. Perhaps Jesus’ favorite teaching tool was the parable – a story that illustrates spiritual truth. One such story is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. 

The story begins with a man who had two sons. The younger son decided that he was ready to strike out on his own and see the world. So, the son demanded that his father give him his inheritance that very day – even though his father was still living. The father relented and gave the son his inheritance, breaking with tradition and social norms. 

The older son stayed home, working his father’s land staying engaged with his family. But the younger son couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. He left for a far-off land, squandering every penny on the party life and “reckless living”. He quickly ran out of money – and when he did, a famine hit the land leaving our boy destitute. Out of desperation, the son hires himself out to a man who sent him out to his fields to feed pigs. This was about as low as one could go in that culture. Jesus was speaking to Jews – and Jewish law forbade them from having anything to do with “unclean” pigs (maybe they hadn’t discovered how yummy bacon is). 

The boy became so hungry that he wished he could eat the pods that he was feeding to the pigs. So, he decides that it would be better to return home as a servant where he would at least get 3 square meals every day. Luke 15:18-19recounts his thoughts: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

Swallowing his pride, he made his way home. As the younger son approached home, his father saw him from far off. His heart lept with joy and ran to the prodigal, embraced him and welcomed him home. Showing a spirit of true humility and repentance, the son tells his father: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” What follows next is astounding. The father’s response was that of forgiveness and undying love. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15: 21-24

As you may well imagine, the older son was upset by his father’s mercy and grace toward his younger brother who had betrayed their family, betrayed their faith, and most importantly betrayed God. He was incensed. He confronted his father, reminding him that he had been loyal and faithful and yet had never been honored like his miscreant younger brother was being honored. I get it. I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there too. 

That’s the part of this story that I wanted to draw out today. We have a tendency to become jealous or even angry when we perceive “injustice” like this. “I’ve done this and I’ve done that! I’m the one who deserves what this low life is getting! IT’S NOT FAIR!” Ever happen to you? Likely it has. We talk about the prodigal son. It’s common even in pop culture. There was even a TV show called “The Prodigal Son”. We love a story of redemption – as long as we aren’t the ones being shortchanged. Ever been over looked for a job or a promotion? It’s difficult to be happy for the one who got the job or received the promotion. We tend to look at what’s on another man’s plate and compare it to the “scraps” on our own plate. And the sad part is, we miss the celebration. The older son refused to go to the party. He was too busy feeling sorry for himself to recognize that his little brother had returned home and that his father had been longing for the prodigal to return home. 

Don’t be like the other son. Honor those who are being honored. Celebrate those who come back from the cruel world. Stop looking at what’s on someone else’s plate and be thankful for what’s on yours. Eat the fatted calf, even if it wasn’t prepared in your honor. Fatted calf is pretty yummy regardless of who the meal is celebrating!

Final thought from The Father: “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 31-32 

Kerry "Krybaby" Skaugset
Eastside HOG Chaplain

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