Summary: Lent 4 (c) God's grace delivers us not only from the outwards sins of immorality, but from the inward sins of the heart.
“The Not so Prodigal Son”
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“The Not so Prodigal Son”
Today we hear Jesus telling a parable. He is at a big banquet at the house of one of the Pharisees. Jesus is at the table and eating, He is with the invited guests. But the crowds have followed Him here, too. And tax collectors and others are pressing near to Him. And some the Pharisees who are there are complaining, “Look, He welcomes sinners and He eats with them.” It was important to maintain ritual cleanness when eating. And so to eat with sinners, was to assume their uncleanness, and this made you unclean, too. So He tells a parable to quiet things down. This one is rather famous. Jesus gave it no title, but it has become known as the parable of the Prodigal Son. And usually most of the teachings based on this parable center on this Prodigal. But he is not the only character, there is the Father, and the older brother.
You know the story about the younger son, the prodigal one. How he asked his father for an advance on his inheritance. It’s one thing to ask for an advance for allowance, but one inheritance? And the father gives it to him.
He strikes out, to make his way in the world. But instead, the world has soon made its way through him - with wine, women, and song. But the song came to an end, as did the money, with it the wine and women. Flat broke, he hires out to a pig farmer. Slopping pigs did not even pay minimum wage. He saw the pigs were getting fat, and he was getting skinny.
So, he realizes that his father’s servants had it better than this. So he heads home. If Dad will just let him to one of the workers, that won’t be so bad.
Not the life of the rich and famous that he had before, but way better than he had it now. With meat and raiment he would be content.
As he draws near to home, his Father runs out. Kisses him, welcomes him. He does not scold him. Instead he throws a big blow-out, my son is back!!
The point usually made of the story is how we are like that prodigal, we have run away from God, but God forgives, and welcomes us back. Often times the story seems to end there. But this is not the end. It is here where the story of the older brother begins.
He was working in his father’s fields. He comes home, and he hears the music, sees the commotion. “What’s up?,” he asks a hired hand. “Your brother’s come home, and your Father is throwing a party.” He gets boiling mad. In a rage, he washes up the shed, but he won’t go in, he won’t come to the party. The father hears about this. He excuses himself, and goes out to see him. He begs him to come in. But the son is made. “I have worked hard around here. This place runs because I keep it running. You didn’t even have pizza for me and my friends. But he – he won’t use his brother’s name – but he blows your money, and you have a Texas Barbecue for him.” And he won’t have anything to do with it.
The older son has a harsh critique of what his brother has done. And he is not off the mark in his review of his actions. His brother was impudent to demand the inheritance. He flat out blow all the money. And not on business ventures that went belly up. It not that he was a failure. He was a fool. But not lack of intellect, lack of morals. Tawdry and sordid. So rewarding that kind of behavior makes no sense at all.
Yet, the brothers were really two peas in a pod. The prodigal brother was self-centered. He thought only about himself and pleasure. The older brother is also self-centered. He is thinking only of himself and his pride. The French theologian Hugo St. Victor said, “A person loses God through pride, he loses his neighbor through envy, and he loses himself through anger.”
While rebellion and recklessness were the sins of the prodigal, the older brother was consumed by pride, envy, and anger. As soon as he hears the news of his brother’s return, he is filled with anger. And he loses himself. He loses rationality, he loses control. He is an emotional time bomb.
Why the anger? Because of his pride. Pride that “I have slaved away for you many years.” Pride that “I never disobeyed you once, I did everything you commanded.” Pride that I have been building up your estate, not devouring, and with prostitutes no less.