I was reading in Luke 15 this week about the Parable of the Lost Son and felt compelled to explore this great story for a post. The story, also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, involves a man and his two sons. The younger of the two decided that he wanted his inheritance early and left home to go to a nearby country. As one might expect, he didn’t use his money wisely and fell on hard times. Realizing that the people who worked for his father lived a better life than he did, he came to his senses and returned home. His father accepted him with open arms and celebrated the return of his lost son. The older brother who stayed faithfully with his father became angry that the father had accepted the lost son back so readily and was willing to even call him his brother again.
The great thing about this parable is that no matter how we look at this parable we can see ourselves. Almost every time that we look at this story we can think of a recent incident where we have acted like the prodigal son or the older son. In my previous post, I looked at how we are like the Lost Son. Let’s look at the story placing ourselves in the role of the Oldest Son. How do we fail in our role as husbands and fathers like the oldest son?
When we first hear about the oldest son, he is in the field (Luke 15:25). He hears the celebration from the house over the prodigal son’s return and asks one of the servants what is going on. The servant tells him that “Your brother has come.” Not only does the servant tell him about his brother’s return but goes on to say, “your father has killed the fattened calf.” This doesn’t seem so unbelievable to us today, but would probably be akin to the father giving the younger son the keys to the classic Mustang in the garage.
This didn’t sit well with the Oldest Son. He became angry and decided he just wouldn’t go home to the party. Anger is an emotion we get when we feel offended or wronged. We are quick to point out how wrong the Oldest Son was here, but how many times have we done the same thing. We get angry about something and so we go hide out and find a good place to stew. We may not even admit that we are angry. And with that we have fallen into the trap to become passive. Bottle it all up and isolate yourself. We either let the anger eat at us and become bitter or unleash it possibly at our wife that is not expecting it. Once again, we are guilty of looking at the situation through the “me” lens. We find anger not in the action but in that the situation could negatively impact us.
The father went out to the oldest son and begged him to come in to the party. His response is, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” The oldest son is saying that life isn’t fair. He has been a faithful son working hard for the family. How could his father go out and give up what he was entitled to? The Lost Son had already obtained his and he had wasted it. He basically goes on to say that the father didn’t even let him ride the moped around the block and now he has given his brother the Mustang keys.
When we look at our relationships, how entitled do we think we are? Do we have expectations based on what we deserve? Do we keep score and justify what our responsibilities are by how much we have perceived we have done or accomplished? Have you ever said, “She needs to do that because I….” or “Since I did ……. You need to ….” Do we try to take care of chores and errands to get checks by our name or checks for the family’s to do list?
We are all guilty of thinking we are owed something. Do we handle it as being a part of being a husband or a part of being in a family? Do we let our feelings of entitlement cause us to be angry and let that lead to bitterness?
Along with feeling that somebody is taking away something we feel is ours, we often can get a feeling of jealousy that someone is getting something they do not deserve. Jealousy is an emotion of resentment. The oldest son says, “This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home and you kill the fattened calf for him.” Earlier we heard him say that he didn’t get to even have a baby goat at his birthday parties.
It is hard to not be a little jealous when somebody seems to get something we think we deserve or, worse yet, better than what we have. How many times do we fall victim of getting something for our kids and we lean to the “more than they might need” side because we want them to have the best amongst their classmates? Do we not teach our kids to covet others stuff and almost try to have their stuff coveted in our efforts?
Do we sometimes have resentful feelings about the plight of our role as a husband? Are we jealous that maybe some of the things that we can see as fun are not options because of our responsibilities? Do we feel jealous about some of the things that our wives can do in their jobs, or as mothers, or as housewives? Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife says, “If I am jealous I build walls around my heart that keeps me from being thankful and finding contentment in my marriage.”
In Luke 15:30, the oldest son says, “But when this son of yours.” The oldest son would not even recognize the Lost Son as his brother. When Jesus told these parables he was responding to the Pharisees who had made the statement in Luke 15:2: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The oldest son represents the Pharisees in this parable. They were concerned with holding on to their devout Godliness instead of finding joy from the repentance of sinners.
When our spouse wrongs us how do we react? Do we choose to shun them and isolate them? Do we punish them for their faults? Do we let them be responsible to God when they have sinned or do we take on the role of judge?
What about with our children? Do we place the blame for their missteps on our spouse? Let’s work at being a team with our spouse to take responsibility and discipline our kids with a unified stance.
Rejoicing over the Found
When we look at the prodigal son, the story really is saying that the lost son would rather his father be dead and he would have his portion of his father’s stuff. The striking thing with the eldest son is that at the end of the day he is only concerned with his claim to his father’s stuff as well. He shows he has a lack of love and compassion for his father and the estate. He even says that his father has not given him a young lamb to party with “his” friends which further illustrates his mindset of separation from his father. In reality, the elder son is just living out his time waiting for the father to die as well. He doesn’t really show that he has love and compassion for his father. His role at the banquet as the eldest son would have been as the chief host.
The two preceding parables in Luke 15 both involve finding lost things: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. In each story an item is lost and then the central character searches for the item until it is found. Each ends with the central character gathering their friends and celebrating that the lost item has been found. Jesus ends each story declaring the rejoicing by the angels in heaven over one sinner who repents.
The eldest son in contrast has not searched out his brother to find him and bring him back into the family. His concerns for worldly possessions has poisoned his desire to bring his brother back into relationship with the family. When it becomes apparent in the story that he is actually the lost son, he shows no signs of repentence for his actions. His only concerns are to blame his father and his brother.
So, are you rejoicing for the things that matter in your marriage and family? Or are you holding on strongly to some selfish thoughts that are poisoning your happiness? We are all guilty of judging others’ actions severely. We need to work on finding the truth in our lives and then set out to rejoice over that truth being found.