Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 7 August 20:
Luke 15:29 — “I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”
Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son is as much about the older son as it is about the wayward son or about the father. Although the older son faithfully stayed with the Father and served him, he did not share the Father’s heart of compassion and grace – he was not “one” with the father in spirit. The older son’s motivation was recognition and his future inheritance, and he was intent on earning his father’s favor. While the father was overjoyed with the wayward son’s return, the ‘faithful’ son didn’t share his father’s joy. Instead, the older son had a heart of pride and resentment towards His brother, and in his pride, he judged both his brother and his father. The father loved the prodigal son who was eager to receive that love, but the older son stood bitterly outside that love, unable to understand or accept it. At the climax of the story, the prodigal son was closer to the father than the dutiful son because the prodigal son sought the father’s love and his fellowship while the older son sought recognition and reward.
The heart of the self-righteous is one of comparison, judgment, and resentment. The self-righteous arrogantly demand justice be administered against others, forgetting their own reliance on grace and the blessings they have received from God. The self-righteous display the traits of the flesh — anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, etc. Sin is a loss of perspective of who God is, who we aren’t, and what God desires. Sin is a lack of love, separation from God, and defiance to God. When we display sinful attitudes towards others it is because we have made ourselves more important than God and others in our own eyes. This is idolatry.
Consider what the older son in this story has in common with Martha, Mary’s sister – “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42) Martha’s true motive behind her ‘good deeds’ was revealed by her attitude toward her sister who did less. Martha was “distracted”, felt abandoned, and was “anxious and troubled.” She compared, judged, and complained while “serving.” She resented the unmerited favor (grace) her sister received. She revealed the difference between prideful service and sacrificial service from a heart of genuine love. While serving others who don’t deserve it, what does your attitude reveal about your love and your appreciation of God’s grace?
“It is possible to serve God year after year and yet have a heart that is far from Him. You might be one of the hardest workers in your church and yet be filled with bitterness because others do not share your load. You can become so preoccupied with your spiritual labors that when God works miracles in the lives of those around you, you cannot rejoice. If you serve the Lord out of pride, duty, or habit, but not out of love, joy, and gratitude, you will feel like a martyr. You will envy those who are experiencing joy in the Lord while you feel weighed down by the work you are doing. This is not the abundant life your Father has planned for you. Come to the celebration, spend time with the Father, and share in His joy!” [Henry T. Blackaby]
Luke 15:31, 32 – And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
Eternal life is knowing Jesus — relationship with Jesus is our reward, both on earth and in Heaven. We should not desire anything else in life or envy the wicked who pursue other things. Our earthly joy should be both in knowing Jesus but also in helping others know Him too; loving Him wholeheartedly and loving others as He has loved us; displaying the grace to others that God has displayed to us. We should not resent the sinner but hope that they would come to Jesus. Rejoice in the grace given to those who are or were once trapped in sin.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 August 20: Luke 15 is all about God’s desire for His lost people to repent and return to Him through Jesus, reuniting with Him; and it is about God’s desire that His desire for the lost be our desire too. Today, make your total desire knowing Jesus more and more and helping others do the same.