The Oldest Son
Mar 4, 2019 2651
We have misunderstood the so-called “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” It’s not about the youngest son who goes away and wastes his father’s inheritance and then decides to return home. That’s just the back-story to the real story. The real story is about the oldest son and his relationship with his father.
The issue at stake in this story is the character of the father. Why is it that the oldest son can’t see how good his father really is? At the end of the parable, Jesus leaves us with a question. Will the oldest son come in to his father’s house? The youngest son has understood the character of his father. He’s accepted his love, he’s allowed himself to be embraced by him, and is celebrating in his father’s house.
But not the oldest son. He’s standing outside, angry and feeling hard done by. He believes his father to be unloving, harsh, and unfair.
What could have possibly given the oldest son that terribly warped view of his father? After all, in the story, we’ve already seen the unbridled love of the father for his children. The father welcomed his youngest son without even a word of criticism. And how the father is treating the eldest son the same way. The father is just standing there with his arms open wide, pleading with his son saying, “All I have is yours. Won’t you come in?”
What is stopping the oldest son from coming in? It isn’t some fault within the father. It can only be something within himself. It is the oldest son’s own sense of unworthiness, that makes him unhappy even while enjoying every blessing. It makes him feel that he must work for his father’s love. He projects his own unworthiness onto his loving father, so that he sees him as harsh and unable to accept and love him properly.
Come in and find joy in the house of the Father.
At the end of Jesus’ story we are left hanging. Will the eldest son come into the joy of his father’s house? Jesus leaves us with this question because he wants to tell you that too often, you – yes, you – have been the eldest son.
You, who have known the father for a long time. You, who live in his house although in the truest sense you have never come in. You, who have worked for and served the Father. You are the eldest son. Will you come in and find joy in the house of the Father?
I admit that I have been the eldest son for far too long. I thought I knew the Father. I served him for a long time. My lips said all the right things about the Father, but my heart was far from him. I didn’t understand why the Father let things happen the way he did in my life. I have felt unworthy and unlovable, and I have projected this onto the loving character of my Father. That’s why I have never trusting him fully, and I haven’t run headlong into his arms as I should have always done. But all along, I have been completely loved, totally forgiven, and amazingly accepted.
There he stands: my Father. His arms are open wide. He says to me: “My son, everything I have is yours. Won’t you come in?”
How could I not have realized? How could I ever resist?