Who is the prodigal son? Whenever people talk about him, we immediately recall the bad son who asked for his inheritance, left home and lived a sinful life. We also remember him becoming poor and miserable later on, regretting his decisions and returning home to ask that he be taken back by his father, even if he should be considered as among his father’s slaves.
We know, too, how it all ended, right? He was met halfway by his father with open arms, taken back, celebrated and loved. But did we forget something? Was it really the end? Whoever remembers the other prodigal son?
People may not recognize him because he didn’t look the part. He wasn’t the one who left home and shamed his father. He wasn’t the one who lived a useless life. In fact, he lived quite the opposite. He was the responsible one, the dependable one, the one who has always done what he thought was his father’s will.
You may now be starting to recall something. Yup, he’s the one. The brother who’s bitter for the party given by his father to the son who just returned.
Not many people could relate to this other prodigal son. Not many care anyway. He just didn’t seem bad enough to create a dramatic story like his brother. His life seemed boring, and he’s got everything anyhow. He was never lost, never poor, never as miserable as his brother. Yet isn’t he?
The truth is I really think he is just as miserable and as lost as his brother. He may not appear to be so, but his bitter words revealed his true feelings in the end:
‘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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ – Luke 15, NIV
Are these the words of someone who is happy with his life and with his relationship with his father? Not really. His brother atleast knew that he was doing something wrong, but this one believed he did everything right but despite all he did, he wasn’t rewarded at all, he wasn’t getting what he thought he deserves.
There were many times in my life when I could relate to this brother more than I could with the first. I could relate to his exhaustion, to his efforts all through the years. And I could relate with his pain, the way he never seems to get his father’s love.
By any chance, could you recall a time when you felt the same way? Have you ever felt like you’ve already done everything you could and yet you still feel as though you’re not any closer to what you wanted to achieve? Have you ever felt like you’ve already done everything for a certain person and yet that person still fails you and hurts you in the end?
We just wanted to do good. We wanted to do what’s right. But all we get in return is pain, suffering and disappointment. Where is our father in heaven then who says he loves us? What have we done wrong to deserve all these? We have done our obligation, we obeyed all his laws, and yet the person that he rewards is that person who disobeyed him and never lifted a finger to serve him! We were the ones who were doing everything. We were ‘slaving’ for the father, but the father never even gave us a goat to celebrate with our friends when he gave that other son a big party all for wasting his father’s wealth and living a sinful life. Isn’t it all unfair?
The sad thing is that the parable never said what has become of the other prodigal son. It never mentioned a happy ending for him, never a word on whether he got his party or whether he ever came out from his bitterness and felt the love of his father.
The only thing that ended the parable were the following words of the father:
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But 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 15:31-32
That was it. No hugs, no parties, no gifts to make the other son feel better. All that the father said was, “My son… you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
If you were in his place, how would you have reacted? What would you have thought? Could such words ever be sufficient enough to heal your pain? What would you have wanted your father to say?
Personally, and at first glance, I wasn’t happy with what the father said. For one thing, it was a very short response. Couldn’t there be a longer explanation? Secondly, he mentioned my brother again. Is this all about him again?
Thinking about it though, I couldn’t think of any other answer that the father should have given me. “My son… you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
The father only reiterated what I should have known all along, that I was his child, and that everything He has is also mine.
It is the truth, but it isn’t easy for the truth to sink in. I haven’t realized it all these years, have I? How could I so easily understand them now?
But I have to. If the truth needs to be repeated to me ten more times, or even a hundred times more, I should hear it out and let it open my heart to what I have failed to see all this time.
My brother at least knew that he has his father’s wealth to claim and spend in whatever way he liked. He just forgot that the most important thing is his father’s love.
But I have forgotten both. I have failed to claim my gifts. And I have failed to see my father’s love. I wish I could say I have already gotten both, but I am still in the process of learning to recognize and to receive all that the father has given me. Someday, I pray that I might finally be able to receive all of his love and all of his blessings for me.
How about you? To which prodigal son could you relate to?