God is amazing in how He teaches through parables. Some things are picked up pretty quickly while other points surface over time. The parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke 15:11-32.
A pretty standard take on this parable is forgiveness and unconditional love. Most of us who have been around for a while have heard these wonderful insights expounded, so there’s no need to do so here.
One point that sometimes gets overlooked is God’s sense of justice. The fact that the prodigal son returned is joyous, but it does not mean that the father would alter his choice to divide his inheritance equally between his two sons. The prodigal left with his inheritance and squandered it, never expecting it to be replaced. This leads to thinking about the forgiveness/justice connection that also includes consequences. As believers, we know that we have been forgiven. We also know that we still face the consequences if we have acted wrongly: a murderer can still face execution, and a thief can still face imprisonment. We are blessed that we can look beyond those “present circumstances” to an eternity with God because we are His. In the same way, the prodigal son received no more physical inheritance from his father but was welcomed back into the family and its relationships. That was justice.
Note that the brother was distressed because the father had a celebration when his brother returned. What was that about? The text reveals that the faithful brother was afraid his father did not appreciate his loyalty and faithfulness through the years and probably also feared losing some of the inheritance that, at that point, was rightfully his in its totality. It’s sad that the faithful brother did not know or trust his father’s word and promise to him before he divided the inheritance: what remained was the faithful son’s and his alone. In short, the faithful brother was insecure in his father’s love and faithfulness.
What about you? Do you really trust God at His word about your spiritual inheritance? If someone who left a fellowship returned, was your attitude of rejoicing or insecurity? Are you truly joyful at the thought of sharing eternity with one who left and returned while you have been faithful to God during that time?
This is our time to celebrate the season of Jesus’ physical birth. He was born in the flesh to set us free from physical and spiritual disabilities. (See Luke 4:18-19) Will you join us in praying that those who have left Him return to rejoice with us and share our abundant spiritual blessings?
May God deeply and richly bless you this Christmas in ways you have not experienced. May He continue to grow you spiritually and grant you the spiritual eyes, mind and heart to grasp what means so much to Him. The Old Testament is filled with God lamenting Israel’s turning away as well as her (brief) returns to Him. The Church is His chosen spiritual people. May we turn our hearts to Him as well and be love to those prodigals He sends across our paths.
copyright 2014, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved