The Prodigal Son
by: Tom Bast
This familiar parable features the wayward son, the waiting father, and the elder brother. Usually most of the attention is focused either on the dissolute son who comes to his senses, repents, and is welcomed back home by his father, or on the father himself who forgives his son and celebrates his return. But what about the elder brother? If we learn from the son the folly of self-will run riot and the necessity of repentance, and if we learn of God’s gracious forgiveness from the father, perhaps from the elder brother we learn at least this: the danger of harboring resentment. He resented the treatment his father lavished on his younger brother and refused to come to the celebration.
Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die from it. It is focused exclusively on self, and because it proceeds from injured pride, it leaves no room for humility. Without humility we cannot approach God, nor can we have any real or meaningful relationship with others. Humility is the only ground in which the spiritual life grows.
We can be left out of the celebration if we choose, so focused on our own grievances that we don’t respond when we hear the Father saying, “all that is mine is yours.” If we do stay outside, we can’t say it’s because we haven’t been invited in.