I give thanks to my older daughter for her post for Blossom Ministry and allowing me to post it here:
Confession time. I can be a very judgmental person. I’m not proud of this. It’s something I’ve been aware of and working with God on for years and just when I think I’ve rooted out a major source I find another pocket full.
Take the story of the prodigal son for example. I suppose many people identify with this wayward young man and to be sure, when I need to repent, I’m grateful that my father is waiting at the end of the road for me with arms wide open. But when I read this story I often find myself judging the prodigal. What a selfish man, I think. How could he act like that? What a screw-up! Asking for his inheritance before his father was dead was literally wishing his father WAS dead. Demanding his portion before its time was irresponsible.
It’s only been recently that I’ve wondered…aren’t there really two prodigals? Wasn’t the older son just as unappreciative of what he had as his younger brother who took off? We focus on the obvious narrative of the “prodigal son” but there is much to be gleaned by reading between the lines of the story of his older brother.
Who was the older brother? I assume he was like myself, also an eldest child: confident, responsible, organized, dependable, and…self-righteous. The older brother followed the rules. Did what was expected of him. Colored inside the lines. And he picked up the slack left abandoned by his younger brother. It isn’t hard to imagine the judgemental thoughts he had. Toward his younger brother. Toward the situation left to him or manage. Toward his father. Fill in the blanks.
And imagine his head literally popping off when his younger brother comes slinking back and their father THROWS A PARTY FOR HIM? Are you kidding me? It looks like his indescretions were unwarranted of any punishment! How DARE he get the fattened calf? How dare he be…gulp…forgiven! When he SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
This is the rub for me. As I put myself in the older brother’s shoes I realize how often I consider this a devout family. A religious family. A Christian family. And therefore the younger brother is someone who should have known better than to act the way he did. I look at people who are supposedly believers making decisions that cause the Father pain. All the while I feel justified in judging them, pointing fingers, shaking my head. I am the older son. Supposedly toeing the line and surrounded by other Christians who slack off. Wow. Just. Wow.
Am I the only one airing my dirty laundry here? Tell me you think of other Christians the same way. Don’t leave me hanging out here! Seriously…if the “younger brother” is an unbeliever it’s more understandable when he does something inappropriate. A “sinner” who sins. What a shocker. But when the “younger brother” is a fellow believer? My expectations shoot WAY up. The bar is set higher.
Thankfully the Father forgave the older son for judging the younger. For propping himself up as the obedient one all while harboring resentment in his heart. For lashing out in anger at the party. For pouting in the corner for all the unfairness. For being stubborn. The older son needed to “come home to the Father’s grace” too. This is me. Learning to focus on my own walk with God instead of meddling and judging where anyone else is…believer or not.
The story of the prodigal son is a misnomer. There are 2 sons. 2 Prodigals. Both in need of forgiveness. Both in need of kindness. Both in need of humility. And both accepted home and rejoiced over by their loving Father.