Who was the prodigal son?

Have you ever tried to “step into someone else’s shoes” to look at things from their perspective? It only works to a certain point. Then you just look at them like they are crazy. Jesus told a third story in Luke 15 in response to the Pharisees grumbling about how He associated with “tax collectors and sinners.” After the lost sheep, and the lost coin, there was a lost son. But it gets much more complicated here! There are three people in this story. And each of them have been examined through the years. And I’ve read this story many times. But why not again? Could God possibly teach me something through another reading? Smirk – of course!

Which boy was the prodigal son?

At first it seems obvious. Younger son: dad, I want my money right now, don’t want anything to do with you, I’m moving out of the state to that big city and enjoying life like everyone else.

Dad gives him what he wants. Watches him leave.

Older brother stays on farm and works.

Younger brother spends and parties and finds it empty (Ecclesiastes, anyone?). So he finally “comes to his senses” and says, “Duh, my dad’s servants are not starving and feeding unclean animals. So I’m going to go ask forgiveness!”

The dad runs to meet him – he had been watching for this wayward son. And he throws a party.

The older son was still out in the field, working, putting in a good day. He comes home to a party for his little brother who ran off and is now being welcomed home. What good is it to work anymore?

Does anyone else see my bias? Yeah, I identify with the older brother. I do all the good things, feel sorry for dad when that punk kid insults him, and think he needs to learn a lesson when he gets home.

What is my problem? In the end, the older brother’s heart was less obedient and willing to listen than the younger’s. So should we all make it a point to run as far away from God as possible to understand that we truly need Him? I think that would be foolish. But hearts of pride – that leaves us outside the party standing in the dark.

So many of Jesus’ parables end with someone outside in the dark where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth – torment and pain. If we hang on to our anger and desire for justice, we will be shut out of the party, away from God. In the long-term view of life, that’s hell!

As Jesus was speaking to another repentant tax collector He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19). Where is my compassion for those who are lost and are coming home? I do get excited to see the repenting! But not like God who is anxiously waiting for them and forgives wholeheartedly. I’m sure the younger son had to go to work on the farm again. He did not get to sit around. But he was forgiven by his father. Can I claim any greater wrong done against me? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:32.

God, thank You for another lesson from the prodigal son – please help me to learn humility as I see myself so forgiven by You, and also compassion on those who need forgiveness. It is a gift. I want to recognize the treasure and share it. Please help me to see who I can have compassion on this week. Amen.


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