Lessons from a Prodigal and His Brother

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in.

His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”” Luke‬ ‭15:11-32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The story of the prodigal son has been on my mind the past few weeks. It started with a song on the radio. Then at the weekly prayer meeting, one of the other ladies was praying and I wrote down the word “prodigal.” A few minutes later another lady started praying for the prodigals. I knew God was trying to get my attention to take a deeper look. It’s one of those stories that is so familiar that it is easy to miss some of the details. As I re-read the story there were a few things that stuck out to me:

And he divided his property between them.

Something I either failed to notice in the past, or have forgotten is that both sons received the inheritance. The prodigal squandered his inheritance. The brother didn’t recognize all that the father had was available to him. Neither, in my opinion realized the value of what they had available to them.

There are times in our walks with Christ where we waste what Christ has given us. We misuse His grace. We waste our gifts, talents, and resources on things that have no eternal purpose. At other times we take for granted the inheritance and gifts available to us in Christ, just as the brother did. We hide the gifts we have. We don’t use the authority and power that Christ has given us.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

Pigs are unclean animals. Jesus was telling this parable to the Pharisees and the scribes. Jewish people not only don’t eat pigs, they don’t raise them either. Jesus puts this detail in His parable for a reason. This prodigal son was unclean. He chose to work with pigs. Pigs are seen as sign of deception (because they look kosher, with cloven hoofs but don’t chew the cud). The father should not have accepted this son back without the ritual cleansing required when one came in contact with unclean things. Yet the father ran and embraced him.

I also can’t help but think that the prodigal’s brother was the one that was really deceived. His heart was unclean. He had stinking thinking when it came to where he was at. He very much represented the mindset of the Pharisees and scribes.

God allows us to make a choice to get into unclean situations so we can see where we are really at and remember there are other options. I also know that sometimes it takes me speaking out foolishly, like the brother did, for me to see where I have been deceived and where my heart really is.

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

I was listening to Matt Carter, and he pointed out something that I defiantly missed the prodigal could have said, I will go home. But he says “I will go to my father.” He was ready to return with a repentant heart, willing to accept whatever his father was willing to offer, even being a servant.

We often settle for returning to what is familiar, we are okay to say “I will just go home.” when what we need to do is, like the prodigal son, go humbly to The Father with a repentant heart. The world offers us many things that keep us in a complacent state like the brother, but we need to return to the Father, repent, and go into His open arms.

Another way we come to the Lord is with a repentant heart and a list of works that we have done to show Him we are sincere. We get this attitude that we can only come to the Lord after we have cleaned up certain areas of our life. We will never be able to come to God through anything except His grace.

“…And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; …”. Isaiah‬ ‭64:6‬ ‭‬‬

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him

God sees us take the step towards Him and He comes running to meet us even when we are still far from Him. He says “You are my son (or daughter).” He celebrates our return. He doesn’t count what we wasted. He doesn’t ask where we have been. He only sees that we were dead and now we are alive again. The Father embraces us as soon as we come with repentance to Him because of the cross, the finished work of Christ is applied to our life.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

““What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke‬ ‭15:4-7‬ ‭‬‬

But he (the brother) was angry and refused to go in.

Anger will always keep us from being willing to go to our Father. It is a wall that we encompass ourself in. It does not stop God, it just stops us from seeking Him. God is not afraid of our anger, He can handle it if we will stop refusing to bring it to Him. There are over 100 verses in the Bible about anger, so God certainly wants us to deal with it.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians‬ ‭4:26‬ ‭

Anger also keeps us from celebrating with others. Even if we are willing to go to the celebration, out of obligation or just plain spite, we can’t enjoy it with anger in our hearts towards the one we are celebrating.

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Psalms‬ ‭37:8‬

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭‬‬

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes‬ ‭7:9‬ ‭‬‬

His father came out and entreated him,

Even though the brother was throwing an angry little tantrum, the father went to him. The father did not want there to be anything between them, he loves both sons. He heard his son out before responding with love and a reminder of what the brother had available as well but a clear statement of his love for the prodigal too.

God does the same with us. Time and time again He places things in our life to draw us to Him. He comes to us right were we are, right as we are. He seeks us out when we miss His invitation. He longs to have a close relationship with us, and just like a shepherd goes looking for the sheep, he comes looking for us. He gives us time to speak our mind or work out what we need to, but He is there reminding us what we have in Him.

For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” Ezekiel‬ ‭34:11‬ ‭‬‬

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” Psalms‬ ‭139:7-12‬ ‭‬‬

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭‬‬

The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭‬‬

But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes

The brother had not talked to the prodigal son upon his return. He asked the servants what all the fuss was. Yet he knew that his brother was devouring the property with prostitutes. The brother did nothing to help his wayward brother do what is right.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians‬ ‭6:1-2‬ ‭‬‬

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” ‭‭James‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭‬‬

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭‬‬

It’s not where we go along the way, but how we end

The prodigal left entitled, but came back expecting to be a servant. He was received as a son. The brother stayed and worked as a servant even though he was a son, but felt entitled.

When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”” Ezekiel‬ ‭18:26-28, 31-32‬ ‭‬‬

““To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” Revelation‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭‬‬

Much like the prodigal son, I did a lot of reckless living. When I found myself spent, I remembered that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me. I knew He never intended for me to live the life I was living. I had to make my own way back to Him, but as I did I was met with open arms.

It took me a long time to let go of the guilt and shame that I had for walking away from God, even after I returned. It wasn’t condemnation from God, but from the enemy. He didn’t want me to walk in my identity in Christ, so he heaped lies of guilt and shame that kept me bound.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭‬‬

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭6:20-23‬ ‭‬‬

We have an inheritance, or are His inheritance

also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭‬‬

As a child of God, I think I can vacillate between the father’s two sons. I realize at times I have wasted what God has given me. I am grateful that He can redeem the time and that His grace covers me, but I recognize that there are still times I am not fully using what God has placed on me. I squander it.

There are also times that I get the misguided notion that I am somehow entitled to what God has made available to me. I get into a works mentality, and start comparing what I have done to what others do. I have a wrong heart attitude in those moments. The truth is comparison will always leave me falling short, because Christ alone is the one I am suppose to be like.

Regardless of which son you relate to, the important thing to remember is they were both sons. They both had a part in the story, and the Father loved them both. If you have been born again, you are a child of God. Regardless of where your journey takes you, or your stinking thinking, the blood of Jesus covers you. We are never to far out of the Father’s reach to come to Him with a repentant heart and be restored. There is no feeling that we hold, that if we will share it with the Father, that He can not help us work through. And we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are on a path to destruction. We have the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance to help us, empower us, and guide us.

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