Prodigals. We all know one or two. They are those that at one time identified themselves with Jesus Christ but later chose a path that took them far from their faith. Some have returned and have gotten their lives on track, others have not.
These prodigal stories are the big ones. The stories that we share to warn others. They are the sad stories that put fear in our hearts for our own loved ones.
Two Kinds of Prodigals
The Prodigal Son from Luke 15 is the first kind of prodigal, the one we are most familiar with. His is a story about a young man and his complete rejection of and forsaking of his father and his ways, of his father’s lifestyle and his choices for him.
** And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. ** Luke 15:11-13
This prodigal son went big. He took everything he thought was owed him and went off to do exactly as he pleased. Life was just the way he wanted it. He had plenty of money, so, friends came flocking to him. Until he didn’t have so much to spend on them and he was left alone, with no money, no friends, nothing.
The best part of his story is the moment that he realized he was better off living the life his father had made and wanted for him than he was living by his idea of the good life. He also knew his father well enough to know that there was a good chance that he could still go home and his father would at least allow him to work for him even though he had already wasted the privilege of being his son.
This prodigal heads home and much to his surprise and relief, his dad is already there on the hill, watching and waiting for his return. The father RUNS to his rebellious, but now repentant, son, and hugs him until he can barely breathe. He commands his servants to prepare and throw the biggest party their home town has ever seen, celebrating his lost son’s return.
The Other Prodigal
So, who is the other Prodigal? I believe he is the brother of the first prodigal. He is the one that stayed home, and did everything that was expected of him. This Prodigal was religiously faithful, serving his father and fulfilling his duties was what he lived for. He did all the right things. He worked along side his dad, worked hard and gave him his best. He was content with his life as far as we know.
Until his brother came home.
You see, The Other Prodigal is the one in the background, the do-right brother. He is the silent and possibly invisible, yet, good son. He is the one that didn’t raise a fuss and acted like everything was fine. But, now, upon his rebellious brother’s return, he has something to say. He stands up and speaks his mind. And reveals to us his heart.
** And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. ** Luke 15:28-30
Notice the emphasis on ‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘my’ ? The Other Prodigal has a pride issue. A self worship issue. Just like his First Prodigal brother. For both of them, Life was all about them. Neither really cared what their Father wanted.
This Other Prodigal seems to think that his brother doesn’t deserve so much forgiveness, mercy and grace. Maybe he thinks there should be some repercussions to his choices and actions. Instead of doling out punishment to this wayward family member, his dad throws a party. The elder brother, the one with experience and maturity would have been perfectly happy if his brother never came back. But he is back and Dad is thrilled! The Other Prodigal, the ‘good’ son is not so happy about it.
Am I a Prodigal? or Which Prodigal am I?
It makes me ask myself if I am not a little bit like the brother of the prodigal. Right now, I can think of several people over the past years, when I have been a little glad that they have problems because what they did was wrong and against God’s will. And my heart’s desire has been that I would never see them again. Cold and selfish, I know. But, sadly, true.
Too often, without enough self-examination, I thought that I was as good as or even more righteous than my Heavenly Father. And I was not at all happy that He wasn’t treating those people the way that I thought he/she deserved.
It is pretty obvious to others when we act like the First Prodigal, isn’t it? We go way off the path and live like the lost.
But what about when we are like the Other Prodigal? Don’t others see that too? Can’t they hear it in our voice? Do they wonder why they don’t see or hear that we are praying for those First Prodigals and their safe return?
Whenever any of us have those tantalizing thoughts and feelings of superiority or that we deserve more good than others from God, we are the prodigal’s brother. The Other Prodigal. We may all serve our Heavenly Father, and we may do all the right things. But when our Holy Father allows a First Prodigal to cross our paths, how close are our feelings and words to the Other Prodigal?
**Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us,** Ephesians 5:1
Ephesians 5 corrects our heart on this issue. We should walk in love. We should be merciful and gracious and kind to EVERYONE. No matter their situation. We are to **speak the truth in love**. Because in Heaven….
** Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. **
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but, I could use a bit more joy and gladness in my heart when a Prodigal comes home.