Posted by: bellissimanh | January 23, 2009

Of Prodigals and Pharisees

We’re all familiar with the story of the Prodigal. A father has two sons. The younger son asks the father for his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance (In those times, this was as good (bad?) as saying, “I wish you were dead”).

The father obliges and the son takes off for a distant land (putting as much distance between himself and Dad as possible) and wastes his fortune on extravagant living. As providence would have it, just when the money runs out, a severe famine (judgment of God?) hits the land. The son takes a job feeding pigs (no respectable Jew would take this job willingly since swine were considered unclean) and is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food given to the pigs.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness, decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy telling him that he does not even consider himself worthy to be called his son (true repentance).

The father, who has been watching and waiting, receives his son back with open arms. He is loving and compassionate. He is overjoyed by the return of his lost son! Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a giant feast in celebration. Now we’re talkin’ a par-TAY!

(This marks the end of the “HC-Paraphrased” version of Luke 15:11-24)

There is so much in this passage of Scripture that is special to me. There are little details like the significance of the gifts bestowed upon the son when came home in repentance that bear so much attention… but that’s for another time.

Many of us have played the part of the Prodigal. I know I have.

But today my thoughts are turned toward him. The other son.

“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard the music and the dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received himsafe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoulred your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'” (Luke 15:25-32)

I wonder… how often have I been this child?

The condeming child, who turns away in frustration as mercy is given to another?

The stubborn child who harbors bitterness and resentment that makes forgiveness impossible?

The narrow-minded child who thinks herself superior to those who have demonstrated what she believes to be shallow faith?

The judgmental child who is fixated on the letter of the law, while ignoring the spirit of her sibling’s heart?

The narcissistic child who misses out on the celebration because she is so wrapped up in herself that she can’t even recognize the joy of true repentance?

And maybe worst of all, the foolish child who distances herself from her Father because she has taken her eyes off the One who knows and loves her above all others and placed her attention elsewhere?

“All that I have is yours” – The property settlement remained unchanged. But the attitude of the older son caused him to lose sight of the relationship he himself had with his father.

I have been the prodigal. Oh, how I have been that child

And yet there have been times in my life that the description of the second child has fit as well. And yet even from this place, the Father is wooing me.

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.” (Luke 15:28)

How grateful I am that His mercy is so vast it extends even beyond the scope of the Prodigal, and reaches out to the heart of the Pharisee as well. When I grow condemning, stubborn, narrow-minded, narcissistic and foolish — still… His grace abounds and He pleads with me. As He did when I was the Prodigal, He takes the initiative in restoring our relationship, offering sweet forgiveness. Because that’s who He is. He is a sovereign God who actively seeks out unworthy sinners, of whom I am the chief.

How could I but love Him?



  1. I’ve been the older brother too. And I’m sorry to say, more than once.
    I’ve never heard that song before, it’s good!

  2. Amazing GRACE! Grace that is greater than all my sin. Thanks for sharing the song. It was new to me and touched me.
    Blessings – Lisa

  3. Oh boy.. you know me girl.. I’ve been both.. oh boy.. LOL I LOVE this song.. never heard it before

  4. Oh girl I have been “that other son” too. It is so easy to just sit in our judgement seat and develop bitterness, anger, resentment…more than once I fear.

  5. Gosh Heather…I’ve forgotten how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!! Somehow it dropped of my daily read list, but I’m gonna fix that right now. Have a great Sunday, friend!!

  6. keeping it real. I’ve been that stubborn child,too. thank God that He keeps after us. I pray for that patience with my children.

  7. Our pastor preached on this parable one time, and I took something away that I’ll never forget. Althought he yourger son’s sins were forgiven and he was welcomed with open arms, he still had to live with the consequences of his sin. The father tell the older son in response to his anger, “all that I have is yours.” The older son was faithful to his duty and to his father, and he was richly rewarded. The younger son was welcomed home (as he should have been), but not rewarded.

    There are so many layers to this parable, and I know that I have been both the prodigal and the older son. I think more often I am the older son, and I need to remember that I need to focus on being faithful for the glory of God and to not worry about what others are “getting” or “getting away with”.

    Great post!


  8. […] of Lost Things A while back, I wrote a post about the story of the Prodigal. I mentioned then that there were more things that the Lord had placed on my heart that would wait […]

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