The Biblcal story of the prodigal son is a story Jesus told in response to the the pharisees saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” It goes like this:
“And He said, A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”—Luke 15: 11-32 (NASB)
What Is Your Reaction?
Now, which do you identify with more, the younger son or the older son? I hope you identify more with the younger son, because most of us are more like him. Basically, he is looking to “find himself,” which most of us have done, if we will admit it. He asks for his inheritance, which is understandable. Then he goes off to a foreign land, which is also understandable. He squanders his inheritance, which, let’s face it, most of us have done. We waste our money when we are younger, figuring out how to spend it wisely. When he has been through all his savings, he is embarrassed to go back to his father, so he starves awhile, figuring that things will change. When it doesn’t, he decides that the smartest thing to do is go back to his father, own up that he was wrong, and take his lumps. After all, he will be among those who love him and maybe he won’t starve. But he doesn’t count on his brother being so upset.
His brother has a point. He has stayed at home with his father, he has obeyed all that his father has told him to do, but he feels like he is treated as an outsider. He has never had the “fattened calf.” He has never experienced many of the things his brother is experiencing now or when he was gone, for that matter. He is jealous.
The Pharisees Are Jealous
Jesus is telling the pharisees that they are jealous of the “sinners” he entertains without telling them that. The pharisees are saying “you are throwing your money away, eating with these people. They (the pharisees) are upset because they feel He will be taken advantage of in the same way the older brother is upset in the story. The older brother is looking only at the smaller picture in the story, not at his brother coming home, but only at how it affects him.
Do we treat others like they are somebody even if they are not? Or do we get angry when they are treated that way? Put another way, How do we see others? As worthy of being treated nicely, or as unworthy? If we treat them as worthy, they are more likely to be there for us when we need them. And they are more likely to change their ways, so they will be worthy next time. Think about this. If someone comes into your church, are you going to look down on them and say that they are not worthy of being there? No, you’re going to treat them like they have been there all along! Why? Because that’s the way you treat an outsider!