"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " Luke 15:25-32
There are so many lessons in this one story of the prodigal son. So many, that when I read it, I start to compose at least four different blog posts in my head. There's just so much good stuff in here, and it seems like every time I read it, God peels back another layer of the onion and see a little deeper and see so many more lessons. But this morning as I read the story of the lost son returning home, I was really struck by the attitude of the older brother. What a whiner- that was my first thought, and then I thought about how often we ourselves get sour grapes because someone else gets something so wonderful...
I mean, really. We hear about God really blessing someone- we hear about a raise at work, or a housing situation coming through, or someone being healed of an affliction, and it can be really difficult to not get jealous. That's one of the things that was going on with this loyal son. Here he's been working at home all this time, being diligent and responsible, helping to take care of his fathers estate. He's been home all this time while his brother was out running around in the world, spending every last penny, and behaving in a poor manner. This brother decides to return home with nothing to his name, and here dad is so excited, that we're throwing a party and celebrating. Diligent brother is jealous, because where is his fatted calf? When does he get to party and have a good time instead of having to be responsible?
And here is how we get rid of jealousy.
"For God does not show favoritism." Romans 2:11
God does not show favoritism. And while it may appear on the surface that God is showing favoritism by blessing someone else with the very thing that you are desiring, the fact is that God has no favorites. So instead of becoming bitter and jealous, we should actually become encouraged. Because we see God doing for one person the very thing that we desire Him to do for us. If God will do that for our neighbor- He will do the same for us!
The good son who stayed behind and was loyal and diligent and a hard worker didn't know this. He had no idea that all he had to do was ask his father to throw him party, and he would have. All he had to do was ask his daddy for a day off, and it would have been gladly given. This son did not really understand the relationship he had with his dad- which was the same relationship his lost brother had.
Instead of being jealous for someone else and their situation, we should rejoice with them!
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15
"But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful." Psalm 68:3
We can rejoice in knowing that we serve a loving and a fair God- and what He does for one person, He will also do for us if we seek Him for it. The crabby brother in our story did not understand this at all. He didn't really understand the loving relationship he could have been experiencing with his father all along.
In the same way, God wants us to understand that he wants to have a loving relationship with each and every one of us. That's one of the points of the story of the prodigal son. The father loves his wayward son so much, that he doesn't care what is in his past. He doesn't care in the least what his son has been doing in the past. It's instantly forgiven, and forgotten, and then they move forward, rejoicing together in the fact that they are together. God wants to rejoice with us too! He wants to have that loving relationship and rejoice with us daily- but we can't do that when we leave His letters to us sitting on the side table collecting dust. We can't do that when we choose to ignore His precious Word or choose to not take the time to pray or spend quiet time listening for His voice.
God wants a loving, rejoicing relationship with each and every one of us. The angry son above didn't get that. I want to get that, and I want to be able to rejoice one with another, and say goodbye to jealousy forever, because I know that God loves me just as much as He loves my neighbor. God's just cool like that.