The one thing about a good story, a story that is passed down from one generation to another, is that every single character has a purpose. Whether they had one line of one word or no line at all, their presence no matter how short, creates the story and adds new depths for the reader or hearer to explore. The story of the Prodigal Son is no different.
The writer Luke tells us this story in the Bible, and in most cases you are directed to the two main character, the father and the younger son, but there is someone else in the story that you don’t often hear about, or at least as much as the other two; the older son and that is who I want to focus on for the sake of this piece.
You don’t really see much of the older brother until the end of the story, though his being is so significant and gives us so much to learn. If you aren’t familiar with the story, the man’s younger son leaves the family to go and squander his inheritance, and ends up coming back home broke and broken, and his father lovingly ushers him back home and celebrates his return. Although, his older brother is far from happy. He feels that younger brother is unworthy of such a glorious welcome and complains to his father, because he had been faithful and not stupid like his brother; he was the good son.
At first glance, his argument makes plenty of sense and has good reasoning. On the other hand you can see his pride and jealousy, neither which are God’s favorite character traits of His children, actually his least favorite. Reading this, it reminded me of how often we judge and feel that someone else sin is worse than our own and God shouldn’t save them or welcome them back. How wrong is that?! How wrong are we?! As Paul said, it’s only by God’s grace we aren’t where someone else is.
Still, the main thing I want to point out how his response to his brother shows that he was so busy, so faithful, as he vigorously explains, that he completely lost the intimacy with his father and life itself passed him by. He just seems so uptight to me and was so focused on being perfect that he squandered his own life away, for his father told him “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Along the way, I think the older brother became ignorant of who he was and who he belonged to and became bitter because he had been so faithful but seemingly got no return on his investment. He didn’t know who he was or what he had even after so many years and because he didn’t know, he wasted his life trying to earn what he already had by birth.
Don’t be like this son, this older brother. As God writes your story, every element is significant, every situation or event, good, bad, or just plain ugly is for a purpose. Your story is your story, and it’s God who knows how it will end so don’t criticize another person’s story just because it isn’t written like yours. Furthermore, the more you try to write your own story, rather than letting God write it, you will become bitter and upset because you will begin to search for what you already had and miss out on what God had in store for you. Get to know who it is you belong to and bask in it as much as you can; understand the riches and blessing you already have because of who your Father is. Don’t work so hard trying to earn what you don’t need to, because truth be told, we can never truly earn anything God has for us, we are so unworthy, but His grace, His grace…
Living a life of purpose, and being you for a purpose – a child of your Heavenly Father – don’t be ignorant to what is available to you and at your fingertips. It’s not about being perfect, because we fall short, but living our lives in such a way that proves we love our Daddy and are secure in our identity and look as if God dumped all His riches in glory on us. Wherever you are weak, He is strong, and wherever you are strong, He is stronger. Whatever you think you have, He has much more, and whatever you don’t have, He has promised to meet each and everyone of your needs and to give you an abundant life. Now is that to say do whatever you want or be lazy and not do anything and wait for God to drop it in your lap? Absolutely not. It is okay to work and live a good positive life free from all the craziness and drama of what the Prodigal Son experienced. If you don’t have to don’t, just don’t think you are more worthy than someone who didn’t live a polished life. Either way enjoy the life you have and make the most of it. As the father said to his son, God is saying to you to me. He is ALWAYS with us and ALL He has is ours. We don’t have to walk around bitter and jealous because of how God decides when and how to bless someone, celebrate that person, because it could’ve been you, and you may not know the story behind that glory. You know why you should celebrate? If for no other reason, he excited that a person has [finally] decided to live the abundant life of purpose in Christ and tap into God’s awesomeness, a life that you should already be living. If you aren’t, you are just as lost as the Prodigal Son, because you are living in bitterness, pride, and jealousy, that it’s blocking all that God wants to do in, by, through, and for you. This life someone else is about to embark on is so close to you, it may as well be a million miles away. Don’t live a life like that if you don’t have to.
God wants you and loves you, and wants you to enjoy Him and live a life of purpose believing and walking in His promises for you. He wants to give you all He has for you, but you have to want to receive it and know what you have. It has already been paid for. Ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is power. Learn and Know. Know the force behind you. Know the power that goes before you. Know the purpose and plan God has for you. Know who you are. Know who you belong to. Know the riches of all kinds that are at your feet. Know what belongs to you. Know that God has tailored-made your story. Know that you are no better than anyone else. Know that God has always and will always be there. Know that Heaven will celebrate you when you get Home. Know that you are not forgotten. Know God will honor you and lift you up, in due time. Know that if you don’t know or learn these things your life will be bitter.