I have read it countless times, probably as you have, but this time I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before. It is so often how the Bible works: stories that we have heard over and over can somehow take on a new hue – that is how the Holy Spirit works.
The passage I was reading was a very familiar one – that of the prodigal son. Reading this in the past, I often felt that the older brother was treated rather harshly and somewhat unfairly. I can relate to him, knowing others that are like the younger brother. As such, I have often felt that those who see things through and remain reliable often get ‘second best’ compared to those who are selfish by nature. To me this parable seemed to be just another story where those who are dependable are left holding the bag.
Yet, as I reread it this time something new stuck out to me that I hadn’t noticed before. It was the part toward the end of the story, and I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before.
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So, his father went out…to him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him’. ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’”
How very odd. The son accuses his father of being stingy, having never given him a party. Yet, at that very moment the father is throwing a party, just for the younger son.
In reading it this time it stuck out that the older brother had never received a party because he had simply never asked for one; he assumed that his father would say ‘no’ because he was so tightfisted.
How many of us assume God is stingy? That He is so miserly we don’t bother to ask Him for things? It’s a common way to view God, especially among those who have served Him for a long time, as this brother had his father.
How often do we let our view of God dictate how we pray (to our own detriment)?
We need to stop and ponder how He dresses a tree in the spring or a parrot in the jungle where few will ever see it. If you look at His creation closely, you see that His designs spare no expense.
Then there is the issue of projecting onto others the traits that we ourselves have. I think this was the case with the older brother. He was tightfisted by nature and didn’t necessarily want a party and assumed that his father thought the same as he did.
On top of that, possibly the older brother’s tightfisted ways could have led to the younger brother becoming an easy spender. Too often a younger sibling will react to those older than they are in order to ‘rebalance’ the family. But it never works. We can only rebalance ourselves.
So, maybe you are one of those who has “plowed” in God’s field a long time and have grown tired of feeling overlooked by God. Maybe, though, it is your view of Him that is the problem. Maybe it is time to look for new insight into the nature of God…
…and ask Him for those things you have so long longed for.
-The Loan Arranger (who is also taking a fresh look at God’s nature)