Daily Devotion for Wednesday, July 22, 2020 from Rev. Dr. Eric Douglass
|Luke 15:29-30 (the end of the Parable of the Prodigal Son): “You have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”|
In the last several meditations, we have looked at the Parable of the Prodigal Son, seeing how the lost son comes home and how God loves his wayward children. But there is another sibling living at home: the good son.
The good son is not hard to imagine. He obeyed his parents while the younger son rebelled. He stayed home while the younger son fled. He lived a moral life while the younger was profoundly immoral. He was the kind of son or daughter that everyone wants. But when the good son hears about this party for the younger son, he is angry. Let me set the stage:
The younger son had taken his inheritance—even before his parents had passed away—and spent it on women, food, and drink. Now he is broke. When he returns home, the father throws a feast, full of fresh food and music and dancing. The sounds of celebration fill the yard and farm. When the older son hears it, he has no idea what is going on. He turns to ask one of the people, and is told that it is for the younger son who has returned home. Only he remembers how his brother had spent his entire inheritance on drinking and prostitutes. He thinks to himself: “Why would my father celebrate this behavior?” And then with anger: “Why has my father never celebrated my behavior?”
Now, some people would portray the older son as a prude, who was legalistic and judgmental. They envision him as the kind of child who was always unhappy and never fun to be around. But this is a misreading. None of this is in the text. The older son was legitimately upset.
Indeed, when I was thinking about this parable, I was reminded of a story from a friend of mine. He told me that his parents had saved up money in a college fund for both his brother and himself. He went to college, scrimping his way through, never having enough money to buy anything beyond the necessities. He even worked on the side. But when his younger brother finished high school, he stripped out his college fund and spent it traveling around Europe for a year. When the younger son got home, broke, he asked his parents for a car…which they bought for him. At this point, my friend turned to me and said: “My parents never bought a car for me.” All these years later, there was still pain and anger in his voice.
In both stories, the older son is legitimately upset. That is not in question. We are never asked to deny our sense of fairness. Neither are we asked to ignore the consequences of the younger son’s actions. Rather, this parable askes a much deeper question: is the younger son still part of ‘family’? Indeed what is the meaning of ‘family’? A famous actor once said: “Family means that no one gets left behind or forgotten.” No one!
If this is true for our earthly family, how much more in God’s family. The attitude of the older son is that sinners must be excluded from the family…but Jesus dies for all. The attitude of the older son is that sinners don’t deserve God’s grace…but Jesus dies for all. The attitude of the older son is that the younger son lacks value…but Jesus dies for all. Regardless of past actions, God comes for all the ‘younger sons’ and ‘younger daughters.’ There are no exceptions.
And this means that God comes for you.
It is too easy to deny the value
of those different from us,
to decide that they are not
part of ‘our’ family.
It is too easy to exclude others,
to label them, to call them names,
to ignore them, to dehumanize them,
so that they are not part of ‘our’ family.
But you died for all the
younger sons and younger daughters of the world.
You created the enormous group
that you call ‘our’ family.
Forgive us for excluding our brothers and sisters,
for the sin of excluding the smallest part
of those you died to redeem.
Forgive us for our faithlessness toward…
Amen. D. Stiers.