What has come to be known as the Parable of the Prodigal is probably one of the most popular Jesus ever told. I used to think it was about the wild living younger son – and immoral living. Now I know its about stewardship – and your commitment in this campaign.
Three principle characters:
The father – the elder brother – the young/prodigal son.
Most of the teaching I received focused on the wild living of the younger son – and how we should avoid that because that will cause us to end up in a pigpen just like him.
The end of the story does not justify that emphasis. It's true the wayward person coming home is significant – But the story ends with the elder brother refusing to go to the party the father hosted. On an occasion that should have prompted much celebration, the older brother revealed he did not share his Father's values.
The ironic, bittersweet ending is:
The Father realizes – the real prodigal is – the elder brother.
And what values did the Father possess that the elder brother rejected?
Love, acceptance, forgiveness – and – don't miss this one – generosity …
In contrast, the judgmental, elder brother is resentful, unforgiving, and miserly – and ultimately the one consumed with material possessions.
Mark this: Unforgiving people are rarely financially generous people.
The elder brother lives on today in the church through members who are hard working - but bitter – because “ nobody ever notices or appreciates what I do ”. In addition, these church members are usually the ones that contribute very little to the financial needs of the church.
Let's end the parable on good news. The so-called prodigal returns to his father after wasting all his inheritance on riotous, fast lane living.
At the beginning of the story we encounter him as a self-absorbed consumer.
His only response to his father's hard-working lifestyle is
what belongs to me, my inheritance.
Eventually, after being reduced to feeding pigs for a living, he is graced with an agonizing but ultimately liberating moment of awareness. He comes to himself – that phrase is a medical term that describes someone who comes out of a coma.
This awareness that living – real life – consists of what I give back - not what I receive is that which enables us to experience the abundant life Jesus promised.
He returns home to find his long-suffering father waiting for him with open arms. The son's cry is – now:
Father, make me like one of your servants.
The difference between living and just existing is found in the difference between the phrases Give Me and Make Me .