Prodigal Son Part 2

Forgiveness for me but not for thee.

Luke 15:21-32 (ESV) (part two of a three part series)

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.’”

We repeat the verses from part one, where we imagined an analogous situation where a boy got thrashed by farmer Brown’s bull. The boy had teased the bull so, in a sense he got what he deserved. But grace is about compassion, even for people who caused their own problems. So let’s take this up a notch.

Now imagine that you’re that boy. You did something stupid and wrong, and now every bone in your body hurts. What would you pray for now? Does sympathy seem appropriate now?

It does for me. I don’t have a problem with sympathy for my own pain, even when it’s all my fault.

But why? Why do I want better treatment for myself than for some unknown teenaged boy? In a way that’s obvious, but what exactly is the difference?

The difference is love. I love myself, and I’m used to “rooting for” myself to catch a break. When you love thy neighbor as thyself, you root for the teenaged boy just as much as you would root for yourself.

Grace is born of this.

This gets back to a point from part one of this series – “You see things differently when you’re in charge.” The father in the parable is focused on the lesson his son has learned. The father sees this as a great thing – much more significant than the money his son squandered learning this lesson.

Remember, this parable is part of Jesus’s response to the Pharisees saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” The Pharisees have no heart for the “sinners,” just as we might not have much sympathy for the teenaged boy (or the prodigal son who blew his inheritance). They’re focused on justice.

But our Father in heaven is like the father in the parable. The lesson is what matters to Him.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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